CMH 70-98-1 US Army Counterinsurgency WQ

U.S. Army
Counterinsurgency and
Operations Doctrine
Andrew J. Birtle
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Birtle, A. J. (Andrew James)
U.S. Army counterinsurgency and contingency operations doctrine,
1942–1976 / by Andrew J. Birtle.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Counterinsurgency—United States—History—20th century. 2.
United States. Army. I. Title.
U241.B52 2006
CMH Pub 70–98–1
First Printing
In recent years the U.S. Army has been heavily engaged in performing counterinsurgency and nation-building missions in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere. These undertakings, together with recent
operations in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans, have kindled a strong
interest in the Army’s past experiences in combating irregulars and
restoring order overseas. In response, the Center has commissioned its
historians to take a close look at the evolution of counterinsurgency and
related doctrine in the U.S. Army. This volume, covering 1942 to 1976,
is the second volume representing that effort.
During the third quarter of the twentieth century, powerful political and socioeconomic forces created instability in many countries.
Watching international communism exploiting such situations, the
United States mobilized its resources to fight Communist subversion
as part of a post–World War II global “Cold War.” While recognizing
the underlying problems that made societies vulnerable to Communist
exploitation, the U.S. Army played a central role in executing all
aspects of this policy. It furnished counterguerrilla training, advice, and
assistance to foreign armies and police forces. It occupied conquered or
unstable countries, organized governments, and supplied men, money,
and materiel to help allied nations redress the socioeconomic and political conditions that American policy makers believed fostered unrest.
And when necessary, it fought Communist insurgents, guerrillas, and
even regular forces employed in irregular roles.
The Cold War is over and the threat posed by communism much
diminished. However, the conditions that can fuel civil unrest and
insurrection are still with us and will probably always be features
of human affairs. Soldiers, diplomats, politicians, and analysts will
thus benefit from learning about how the U.S. Army has historically
approached such problems and the successes and failures that those
ventures have met. Although every historical event is unique, many of
the issues and challenges involved in such actions are as relevant today
as they were in the past. By examining evolving Army doctrine, training, and field operations, this work provides an in-depth look at how
our institution performed its counterinsurgency and nation-building
responsibilities during a previous era of global instability, experiences
that might well shed some needed light on the work that must be done
today and tomorrow.
Washington, D.C.
15 September 2006
Chief of Military History
The Author
Andrew J. Birtle received a B.A. degree in history from Saint
Lawrence University in 1979 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in military
history from Ohio State University in 1981 and 1985, respectively. He
worked for the U.S. Air Force as a historian for approximately three
years before joining the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 1987.
He has written several articles, pamphlets, and monographs; a book on
the rearmament of West Germany; and U.S. Army Counterinsurgency
and Contingency Operations Doctrine, 1860–1941, the companion
volume to this study. He is currently working on a volume concerning
U.S. Army activities in Vietnam between 1961 and 1965.
Stability operations, nation building, and counterinsurgency: these
are all phrases that are very much in the news today as the United States
and its allies attempt to bring peace and order to troubled places like
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. None of these terms are new. They all
originated over forty years ago, when the United States wrestled with an
earlier era of global instability. Although the causes of foreign unrest, the
nature of the threat, and the circumstances under which the United States
has attempted to address those challenges are different today than they
were several decades ago, many of the fundamental issues associated
with such phenomena remain the same. Indeed, readers of this study and
its predecessor volume, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency
Operations Doctrine, 1860–1941, will find many points of similarity
in how the U.S. Army has dealt with counterinsurgency, constabulary,
and limited contingency situations in the past. The reasons for these
similarities and the principles that form the core of American doctrine
are described in the book. The volume also examines the nature of counterinsurgency and nation-building missions, the institutional obstacles
inherent in dealing effectively with such operations, and the strengths and
weaknesses of U.S. doctrine, including the problems that can occur when
that doctrine morphs into dogma. Readers should remember, however,
that while many threads of continuity exist there are also developments
that have no parallel. Continuity and change are the twin muses of history. No two situations are identical, and the fact that something happened
in one instance does not mean it will occur in another. This is particularly
true with regard to the subject matter of this book, as a plethora of political, socioeconomic, cultural, environmental, and military factors give
each counterinsurgency, nation-building, and contingency operation a
unique hue. The vagaries of these types of operations encumber both the
historian and the doctrine writer. Consequently, writers and readers alike
should always bear in mind that history, like military doctrine, is not an
exact science, nor does it have determinative or predictive powers. It is
an interpretive art that explains the past, helps us understand the present,
and provides insights that may assist us in wrestling with the inevitable
challenges of the future. Hopefully this volume accomplishes all three
Many people, far too many to name, assisted in the production of
this volume. I would like to extend a general word of appreciation to the
staffs of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library
of Congress, the U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH), the
U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI), and the Pentagon, Infantry
School, and Command and General Staff College libraries. Individuals
worthy of special mention are Wilbert Mahoney of the National
Archives; Richard J. Sommers, David Keough, and Pamela Cheney
at MHI; and at CMH, Graham Cosmas, Mary Gillett, James Knight,
and Geraldine Harcarik. I would also like to recognize the members
of the Center’s Publishing Division who transformed the manuscript
into a book: Keith Tidman, Beth MacKenzie, S. L. Dowdy, and Teresa
Jameson. Contractor Anne Venzon created the index. I am especially
grateful to Diane Sedore Arms, whose expert editing greatly improved
the quality of the work. Thanks also go to the scholars who reviewed
all or portions of the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions:
Stephen Bowman, Jeffrey Clarke, Robert Doughty, Paul Herbert, Joel
Meyerson, Allan Millett, Richard Stewart, and Lawrence Yates. Finally,
I would like to thank my parents and my wife, without whose support
this work would not have been possible.
Though many people contributed to this volume, the author alone
is responsible for all interpretations and conclusions, as well as for any
errors that may appear.
Washington, D.C.
15 September 2006
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Terms and Their Relevance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Early Doctrine, World War II, and Postwar Occupations. . . . . . Guerrillas, Civilians, and the Geneva Convention of 1949 . . . . The Army and the Challenges of the Postwar World . . . . . . . . . 2. The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955. . The Chinese Civil War, 1945–1949. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Greek Insurgency, 1945–1949 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Philippine Insurgency, 1945–1955. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Indochina War, 1945–1954. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3. The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page
Occupation and Advice, 1945–1950. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
South Korean Counterguerrilla Operations in an
Expanded War, 1950–1954 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
U.S. Army Counterguerrilla Operations, 1950–1953. . . . . . . . . 102
Assessment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
The Truman-Era Counterinsurgencies in Retrospect . . . . . . . . . 117
4. The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine,
1945–1960 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Sources of Doctrine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
The Evolution of Army Doctrinal Literature, 1951–1958. . . . . . 142
Counterinsurgency in the Educational and Training Systems. . . 151
The Resurgence of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1958–1960. . . 157
5. Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965 . . . . . . . . . . . 183
Lebanon, 1958. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
The Emergence of Doctrine for “Situations Short of War”. . . . . 190
Doctrine at Work: Thailand and the Dominican Republic . . . . . 199
Doctrine in the Aftermath of the Dominican Intervention . . . . . 212
6. The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Kennedy and the Army. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Sources of Doctrine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
The Doctrine Development System. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
The Evolution of Doctrine, 1961–1964. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
The Development of Doctrine, 1964–1965. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250
Disseminating Doctrine: The Education System. . . . . . . . . . . . . 257
Disseminating Doctrine: The Training System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266
The State of Affairs, 1965 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 276
7. Putting Doctrine to the Test: The Advisory Experience,
1955–1975. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291
The Latin American Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291
Advice and Support in Vietnam. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304
The Asian Experience Outside Indochina. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328
The Advisory Experience in Retrospect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344
8. Doctrine Applied: The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973. . 361
Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 362
Operational Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 368
Operational Practices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372
Organizational and Tactical Adaptations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382
Pacification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 387
All the King’s Horses: The Army Experience in Vietnam . . . . . . 405
9. The Evolution of Doctrine, 1965–1975. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 419
Words and Organizations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420
Doctrinal Developments, 1966–1967 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424
Reflections on Nation Building. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435
Doctrinal Developments, 1968–1972 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 445
Doctrinal Consolidation, 1972–1974. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 448
Education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 455
Training. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 462
The State of Doctrine at the End of the Vietnam War. . . . . . . . . 466
10. The Counterinsurgency Legacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 477
The Great Retreat: Counterinsurgency in the 1970s. . . . . . . . . . 477
The Evolution of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Retrospect. . . 484
Select Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499
Glossary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 537
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 543
1. U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Activities,
1942–1976. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. China, 1945. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3. Greece, January 1949 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4. The Philippines, 1950. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5. French Indochina, 1954 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6. Korea, 1949. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7. Southern Korea, 1949. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8. Lebanon, 1957 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1965 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10. Central and South America, 1961. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11. South Vietnam, 1965. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12. Korea, 1966. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
13. Thailand, 1975 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
U.S. Soldiers Execute a German Guerrilla in the Closing Days
of World War II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Captured “Werewolves” Like These Posed Little Danger During
the Postwar Occupation of Germany. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The U.S. Army School for Military Government. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Military Court Tries a German Civilian Charged
with Illegally Possessing a Firearm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Soldiers Meet with Communist Guerrillas in an Attempt
To Negotiate a Truce to the Chinese Civil War. . . . . . . . . . . . . Greek Soldiers Engage Communist Guerrillas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet and Greek Officials Inspect
Government Troops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Greek Soldiers Assault a Guerrilla Bunker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Filipino Soldiers of the 7th Battalion Combat Team Search for
Huk Guerrillas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franco-Vietnamese Soldiers Search for Viet Minh Guerrillas
in a Village in the Red River Delta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Franco-Vietnamese Soldiers Parachute into Dien Bien Phu. . . . . . A U.S. Army Adviser Helps a Korean Constabulary Officer
Plan a Counterguerrilla Operation on Cheju-do . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Army Adviser to the Korean National Police Helps
Display Captured Guerrilla Flags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Korean National Policemen Inspect Captured Guerrilla
Weapons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Korean Soldier Checks the Identity Papers of a Refugee. . . . . . An Armored Railway Car Used by U.S. Military Police To
Keep South Korea’s Railroad Lines Free of Guerrilla
Interference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers from the 65th Infantry Bring in Captured Guerrillas. . . . An American Convoy Defends Itself Against a Guerrilla
Ambush in the Korean Mountains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Special Activities Group Soldiers Engage Guerrillas . . . . . . . . . . . American and Korean Soldiers Deliver Food to Indigent
Civilians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Civil Affairs Soldier Organizes a Village Election . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Soldiers Depart from a Village That They Have Set on
Fire To Prevent Guerrillas from Using It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Col. Russell W. Volckmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Army Cavalrymen Playing the Role of Mounted Guerrillas
During a Counterguerrilla Training Exercise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Guerrillas” Ambush an Unsuspecting Soldier During a
Training Exercise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers Gain Their Bearings in Lebanon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . An American and Lebanese Soldier Man a Joint Checkpoint . . . . A U.S. Tank Clears away an Insurgent Roadblock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . General Maxwell D. Taylor Believed This Photo of a U.S.
Soldier Riding a Burro Created Adverse Publicity for
the Army. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Soldiers Undergo Live-Fire Counterguerrilla Training in
Thailand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers from the 27th Infantry Patrol the Thai-Laotian Border. . Residents of Santo Domingo Express Confusion over the
Arrival of U.S. Troops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . An American Checkpoint Controls the Movement of People
Through Santo Domingo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Soldier Watches a Manhole To Prevent the
Constitutionalists from Moving Men and Supplies
Through the Sewer System. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xii
A Soldier Distributes Milk to Civilians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Army Chief of Staff General George H. Decker Chats with
Soldiers Who Were Playing the Role of Villagers During a
Counterguerrilla Training Exercise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President John F. Kennedy Talks with Brig. Gen. William P.
Yarborough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Classroom Instruction as Part of the Military Assistance
Training Adviser Course . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Guerrillas” Maneuver During a Counterguerrilla Exercise. . . . . .
“Guerrilla” Mortarmen Emerge from Concealment During
Vietnam-Oriented Training. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers Search “Dead” Insurgents That They Have Just
Ambushed During Training. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Helicopter Shortages Meant That Soldiers Sometimes Had
To Practice Airmobile Operations Using Mock-ups. . . . . . . . . Soldiers Enter a Mock Village During Counterguerrilla
Training in Hawaii . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . With the Help of an Interpreter and Friendly Village Officials,
an Army Patrol Interrogates Captured “Guerrillas” During
Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . American and Ecuadorian Engineers Discuss a Road-Building
Project as Part of the Alliance for Progress. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ecuadorian Villagers Try Out a New Water Pump Built for
Them by U.S. Army and Ecuadorian Army Engineers. . . . . . . Nicaraguan Soldiers Take Part in a U.S.-Assisted Urban
Counterterrorism Exercise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Army Adviser Observes Guatemalan Soldiers Practice
Riot Control Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Army Special Forces Adviser Discusses Tactics with
Bolivian Troops Prior to a Counterguerrilla Operation . . . . . . A U.S. Army Adviser Accompanies El Salvadoran Army
Medics on a Medical Civic Action Initiative. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . An American Soldier Distributes Propaganda in Comic Book
Form to Bolivian Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . South Vietnamese Troops Search for Insurgents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Army Medic Treats a Vietnamese Child as Part of the
Medical Civic Action Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . South Vietnamese Civilians Build Fortifications Around Their
Hamlet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . As in Many Insurgencies, War and Peace Shared an Uneasy
Coexistence in South Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii
A South Vietnamese Army Cultural Drama Group Woos
Villagers as Part of the Battle for the Hearts and Minds
of the Population . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Soldiers Patrol the Barrier Fence Bordering the Korean
Demilitarized Zone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . South Korean Troops Debark from a U.S. Army Helicopter
During a Counterguerrilla Operation in South Korea. . . . . . . . A Thai Mobile Development Unit Accompanied by an
American Adviser Visits a Village . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Adviser Instructs Thai Soldiers in Counterguerrilla
Warfare. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Army Engineers Build a School in Thailand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . General William C. Westmoreland Inspects Viet Cong
Prisoners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Viet Cong Prisoner, Wearing a Mask To Hide His Identity,
Helps U.S. Troops Locate His Former Colleagues . . . . . . . . . . Vietnam’s Terrain Posed Significant Challenges to
Counterguerrilla Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Member of a Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol. . . . . . . . . . . . Airmobile Infantry Played a Central Role in U.S.
Counterguerrilla Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers Teach English as Part of the Army’s Outreach Efforts
in Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Infantrymen Search a Village . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Soldiers Round Up Civilians as Part of a Village Search. . . . . . . . A Vietnamese Policeman and an American Soldier Check
Identities and Look for Contraband at a Joint Checkpoint . . . U.S. Soldiers Forcibly Relocate Civilians from Their Village . . . . A U.S. Patrol Destroys Buildings Used by the Viet Cong
in the Boi Loi Woods. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dental Services as Civic Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A U.S. Soldier Helps Vietnamese Civilians Build a School . . . . . Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Undergo
Counterinsurgency Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . West Point Cadets Search a Hut as Part of Counterguerrilla
Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Guerrillas” Enter a Mock Viet Cong Village Used for
Counterguerrilla Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Troops Receiving Counterambush Instruction Prior to
Deploying to Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiv
Infantrymen Learning How To Locate and Search Viet Cong
Tunnels During Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 464
A “Guerrilla” Sniper Takes Aim at a Patrol During
Counterguerrilla Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 466
Illustrations courtesy of the following sources: cover and pp. 33,
107, 322, 374, Army Art Collection; 9, 10, 14, 16, 62, 90, 95, 96, 99,
104, 106, 110, 112, 113, 115, 154, 156, 186, 187, 189, 201, 202, 204,
207, 208, 210, 258, 270, 271, 273, 274, 276, 277, 295 (top/bottom), 297
(top/bottom), 301, 303 (top/bottom), 308, 318, 320, 326, 332, 333, 338,
340, 343, 377, 379, 388, 391, 393, 396, 397, 398, 457, 459, 460, 463,
464, 466, National Archives; 45, 47, 55, Library of Congress; 69, 71,
226, 228, 363, 373, 394, 395, U.S. Army Military History Institute; 133,
We Remained, by Russell Volckmann; 191, United Press International;
and 421, U.S. Army Center of Military History.
U.S. Army
Counterinsurgency and
Operations Doctrine
Rarely do armies have the luxury of being able to prepare for only
one mission. Although waging conventional war has always lain at the
heart of the military profession, it has never been the soldier’s only, or
even most frequently performed, role. Historically, U.S. soldiers have
spent far more time performing a variety of constabulary, administrative, diplomatic, humanitarian, nation-building, and irregular warfare
functions than they have fighting on the conventional battlefield. This
work describes the evolution of U.S. Army doctrine for two of the
many types of operations other than conventional warfare for which the
Army had to prepare during the three decades that followed World War
II—counterinsurgency and limited peacetime contingency operations.
Terms and Their Relevance
Fighting insurgents and intervening in the internal affairs of foreign countries had long been missions performed by the Army, but
after World War II these missions achieved heightened significance.
The United States emerged from the war as a world leader with global
interests and obligations. The outbreak of the Cold War magnified
these burdens, as the threat of Communist subversion and the need for
the United States to project military power into the internal affairs of
foreign states led the Army to undertake a variety of counterinsurgency
and constabulary missions. The extent of these missions, as well as
the doctrinal confusion surrounding them, is illustrated by the plethora
of terms employed to describe them. According to one student of the
period, soldiers, policy makers, and civilian analysts coined more than
fifty terms to describe the military’s many counterinsurgency functions, an estimate that is probably too low. Among them were such
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
expressions as situations short of war, low intensity warfare, cold war
operations, stability operations, subbelligerency operations, para-war,
revolutionary (and counterrevolutionary) war, guerrilla (and counterguerrilla) war, internal defense and development, sublimited war, and
most exotic of all, subliminal war.1
Because of this extensive but confusing lexicon, a few definitions must be established. For the purposes of this book, the term
counterinsurgency embraces all of the political, economic, social, and
military actions taken by a government for the suppression of insurgent, resistance, and revolutionary movements. The military’s role in
counterinsurgency embraces two broad categories of activities: combat, frequently counterguerrilla in nature, and pacification. The latter
encompasses a broad array of civil, administrative, and constabulary
functions designed to establish or maintain governmental authority in
an area that is either openly or potentially hostile.
A contingency operation, according to the Department of Defense,
is any military operation that is likely to result either in confrontations
with an opposing force or the call-up of reserves.2 Rather than attempt
to cover all the many and disparate activities that could conceivably fit
under the rubric of contingency operations, this work confines its discussion to limited overseas missions undertaken in peacetime to restore
order, quell an insurrection, bolster a friendly government, or otherwise
serve as an instrument of American diplomacy short of engaging in
full-scale hostilities. Limited contingency operations of this type share
with counterinsurgency a number of features that allow the student of
doctrine to consider them as a whole. First, the military frequently performs these missions in relatively underdeveloped areas, where transportation systems are often rudimentary and topographical and climatic
conditions are difficult. Second, combat in such situations usually pits
the Army against irregular or semiregular forces. Finally, and most
important, political considerations play a crucial role in these activities
at both the operational and tactical level. Not only is the close coordination of political, diplomatic, and military measures crucial during
both of these types of operations, but also the ultimate success of these
missions often depends on the interaction of soldiers with indigenous
civilian populations. Consequently, soldiers engaged in these activities
must exercise political and diplomatic skills beyond the martial talents
normally required on the conventional battlefield.
One last term that must be defined is doctrine. For the purpose of
this study, doctrine is that body of knowledge disseminated through
officially approved publications, school curriculums, and textbooks
that represents an army’s approach to war and the conduct of military
operations. Doctrine offers a distillation of experience, providing a
guide to methods that have generally worked in the past and that are
thought to be of some enduring utility. By providing a common orientation, language, and conceptual framework, doctrine helps soldiers
navigate through the fog of war.3
Despite the importance of formal, written doctrine, informal doctrines composed of custom, tradition, and accumulated experience
often play just as significant a role in shaping the conduct of military
operations as do officially codified precepts. Informal doctrines, concepts, and beliefs may be preserved and transmitted through a variety
of mediums, including official and unofficial writings, curricular
materials, conversations, and individual memories. This process, while
somewhat haphazard and difficult to document, is particularly important given the fact that doctrinal developments generally occur in an
evolutionary fashion in which experience is gradually distilled and
codified, only to be eventually modified and replaced after new experiences have demonstrated shortcomings in existing precepts. This study,
therefore, approaches the development of Army doctrine for counterinsurgency and contingency operations by examining the formal and
informal evolution of Army thought and practice, both in the field and
in the classroom.
After taking a cursory look at the Army’s pre–World War II doctrinal heritage and relevant wartime experiences, this volume describes
the state of national and military affairs at the conclusion of World War
II that would influence the development of Army doctrine. With the
outbreak of the Cold War, the Army assumed the relatively new role
of providing advice and assistance to friendly countries threatened by
Communist subversive movements. The study goes on to examine how
the Army performed this role in five countries—China, Greece, Korea,
Indochina, and the Philippines—during the decade and a half that followed World War II. The Korean War, in which the Army moved from
an advisory to a combatant role, will also be discussed, as will the doctrinal writings that emerged during this period. The work then examines
Army contingency operations in theory and, in the case of Lebanon
and the Dominican Republic, in practice. By the early 1960s interest in
counterinsurgency had reached a fever pitch. The volume describes how
the Army responded to the counterinsurgency challenge in its manuals,
its classrooms, and in the field, either directly in Vietnam or through
a number of advisory missions around the globe. By the end of the
Vietnam War both the nation and the Army had become disenchanted
with overseas entanglements, and the study concludes by tracing the
declining emphasis on counterinsurgency and limited contingency
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Pacific Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Dominican Republic
Latin America Advisory Missions
Pacific Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Direct Action
Advisory Action
Map 1
operations in the Army’s doctrinal and educational systems by the mid1970s. (Map 1)
Counterinsurgency and contingency operations describe broad
operational environments that involve many aspects of the military
art, from tactics to unconventional warfare, logistics, transportation,
military assistance, psychological operations, and civil affairs. Many
of these subjects have doctrines and literatures of their own. This
monograph covers only those aspects of Army doctrine that might play
a role in conducting a counterinsurgency or peacetime contingency
150ϒ E
Arctic Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean
French Indochina and Successor States
(South Vietnam, Laos)
operation. Rather, the study focuses only on those aspects that are
uniquely tailored to the counterinsurgency and stability operations
environment. Similarly, while the work examines selective episodes of
American military advisory and operational activities, it is not meant
to be a narrative history of the Army’s numerous overseas experiences
since World War II. The many activities undertaken by the Army during this period require that the work be selective in its coverage and
incorporate only those facts necessary to provide the reader with sufficient background with which to understand the evolution of doctrine.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Readers who are interested in obtaining a more detailed understanding
of the events touched upon in this book can find many resources in the
footnotes and bibliography.
Early Doctrine, World War II, and Postwar Occupations
Although counterinsurgency and contingency operations assumed
a heightened significance for the Army during the Cold War, they were
not new missions. Since the founding of the Republic, the Army had
been called upon to undertake a wide range of irregular warfare, pacification, and constabulary assignments. From these experiences a body
of formal and informal doctrine eventually evolved for the conduct of
what the pre–World War II Army came to call small wars. Small wars,
as the Army defined them, were operations undertaken for the purpose
of suppressing an insurrection, establishing order, or dispensing punishment in situations where U.S. troops usually faced a poorly equipped
or irregular foe. Relatively little of this doctrine found its way into official manuals. However, curricular materials, war plans, and the actual
actions taken by the Army in the field reveal a high degree of continuity
in the way the service approached irregular warfare and pacification.
This body of thought, the evolution of which is discussed in the first
volume of this series, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency
Operations Doctrine, 1860–1941, established some broad concepts
governing the conduct of small wars. Militarily, these concepts called
for the tailoring of forces and techniques to the political, military, and
environmental situation. Aggressive small-unit action, incorporating
regular and irregular techniques, was emphasized, as were mobility, surprise, population control, and good intelligence. In terms of
pacification, the theory recognized the value of courting the population
through proper troop conduct and governmental reforms. The latter
actions were designed to win favor, redress potential causes of discontent, and in their most acute form, to “uplift” the subject society by
introducing “modern” social, political, and economic institutions. This
approach to pacification was based on a complex blend of American
and Western political and moral thought, international law, and rather
paternalistic notions of the “white man’s burden.”
Army doctrine also followed Western traditions in taking a dim view
of guerrillas who violated the laws of war and hid their true identity by
shedding their arms and uniforms. When a civilian population spurned
the hand of reconciliation and supported illegal combatants, an army
was free to employ more severe measures. Among the counterinsurgency
methods employed by the United States prior to World War II were the
U.S. soldiers execute a German guerrilla in the closing days of
World War II.
taking of hostages; the destruction of food and property; the arrest, trial,
and possible execution of guerrillas and their civilian allies; population
resettlement; and a host of other restrictive steps. The net result of the
Army’s thinking about small wars was a loose body of broadly defined
concepts that blended aggressive military action, punitive measures, and
enlightened administration into a carrot-and-stick approach to the suppression of irregulars and their civilian supporters.4
After a century of antiguerrilla operations, the U.S. Army had little
occasion for fighting guerrillas during World War II. In the closing
months of the war German leader Adolf Hitler launched a “Werewolf ”
guerrilla movement that harassed the Allies. The movement largely
fizzled after Germany surrendered, however, and resistance to the
postwar occupation of Germany generally amounted to little more than
minor acts of sabotage and hooliganism, often perpetrated by wayward
For the most part, the U.S. Army found itself fighting alongside,
rather than against, numerous partisan movements during World War
II. U.S. soldiers, either as individuals caught behind enemy lines, as
members of special irregular warfare units, as advisers to indigenous
resistance forces, or as part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS),
waged guerrilla warfare against Axis forces throughout Asia and
Europe. Compared to the millions of men who served in conventional
combat assignments, however, the war produced only a small cadre of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Captured “Werewolves” like these posed little danger during the
postwar occupation of Germany.
guerrilla warfare practitioners. These men would play an important role
in guiding the Army’s postwar efforts to establish a guerrilla, and to a
lesser extent, counterguerrilla, capability. The fact that the Army did
not actually undertake any significant counterguerrilla actions during
the war meant that there was no incentive to preserve or expand prewar
small wars doctrine. Consequently, counterguerrilla warfare disappeared from the curriculums of wartime service schools. Army doctrine
writers similarly ignored the subject, and the meager amount of counterguerrilla information contained in the Army’s basic combat manual,
Field Manual (FM) 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations,
hardly changed at all between 1939 and 1949.
According to FM 100–5, partisan warfare could result from the
defeat and breakup of the main forces of a modern opponent, from
civilian resistance to the occupation of enemy territory, or from the
rebellions of “semicivilized” peoples. Such campaigns, the manual
advised, usually occurred in remote areas under difficult climatic and
topographical conditions in which the counterinsurgent would have to
employ special weapons, equipment, organizations, and methods to
eliminate the resistance. Based in part on a study of French colonial
techniques used in fighting Moroccan irregulars during the 1920s and
1930s, the manual called for vigorous and bold action conducted along
a broad front. Army doctrine considered encirclement to be the best
method for defeating an elusive irregular foe, while air attacks were
deemed particularly effective both as an economy of force measure
and as a way to weaken the morale of the guerrillas and their civilian supporters. Once the hostile region had been occupied, it was to
be prepared for defense, with highly mobile columns organized to
operate as reaction and strike forces. The doctrine also recognized the
particular utility of enrolling the indigenous population into small,
mobile, constabulary-type units. Beyond these limited and largely
colonial-oriented prescriptions the manual did not go. And with the
disappearance of most of the Army’s prewar constabulary veterans due
to death and retirement and with its interwar counterguerrilla curricular
materials swept aside by the onslaught of global conventional war, the
Army emerged from World War II with virtually no written doctrine or
corporate expertise on the conduct of counterguerrilla and pacification
This did not mean, however, that Army doctrine was devoid of
information useful for conducting such campaigns. Wartime texts and
manuals covered a wide range of topics that would be of utility in
conducting counterguerrilla operations, including small-unit patrol,
security, and combat techniques, convoy procedures, Ranger and commando-style operations, mountain and jungle warfare, and logistical
and administrative methods required to project military power into
the most remote corners of the globe. Moreover, the Army gained
significant experience during the war in two doctrinal areas relevant
to the conduct of pacification operations: military law and military
Traditionally, international law and the U.S. Army’s own regulations
disapproved of guerrillas and other mufti-clad irregulars for the simple
reason that they blurred the line between combatant and noncombatant,
a distinction that was essential to ameliorating the harshness of war for
civilian populations. FM 27–10, Rules of Land Warfare, published in
1940, echoed these long traditions in Western jurisprudence by establishing strict criteria for guerrilla warriors. To be considered legitimate
combatants, guerrillas had to be commanded by a person responsible
for his subordinates; wear a fixed, distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; carry their arms openly; and conduct themselves in accordance
with the laws of war. Irregulars who failed to meet these criteria could
be considered criminals, tried by military courts, and sentenced to
prison or death. In practice, the Army had often chosen to treat captured
guerrillas as legitimate prisoners of war to avoid an escalation of retaliatory violence between the Army and its irregular opponents, although
at times it had availed itself of the most extreme sanctions, especially
against particularly troublesome guerrilla leaders.7
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A similar code governed the treatment of civilians in occupied or
hostile areas. Since the promulgation in 1863 of General Orders 100,
Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the
Field, the U.S. Army had acted in the belief that it had both a legal
and moral obligation to conduct itself in as humane a manner as circumstances permitted in its dealings with civilian populations. Such a
policy was not only morally enlightened, but served a practical purpose
as well, for as FM 27–5, Basic Field Manual, Military Government
(1940), noted, “A military occupation marked by harshness, injustice,
or oppression leaves lasting resentment against the occupying power in
the hearts of the people of the occupied territory and sows the seeds of
future war by them against the occupying power when circumstances
shall make that possible; whereas just, considerate, and mild treatment of the governed by the occupying army will convert enemies into
friends.” Since the Army’s immediate objective was to minimize any
resistance that might hamper the prosecution of the military campaign
and since the ultimate object of war was the establishment of a lasting
peace, such a creed made sense. Consequently, prewar military government doctrine called for the rapid restoration of normal social and
economic life, the protection of personal and property rights, the inculcation among the troops of respect for social and religious customs, the
perpetuation of most indigenous law and administrative forms, and the
retention, when possible, of indigenous officials in their posts. Military
government districts were to conform as closely as possible to preexisting civilian boundaries so as to facilitate the coordination of political
and military affairs.8
Wartime emotions led some soldiers during the 1940s to react
adversely to what they perceived as the overly benevolent tone of this
doctrine. When, for example, an Army civil affairs instructor at Yale
University told his soldier-students that they should treat Japanese
civilians humanely, several officers shouted back, “Let the yellow
bastards starve!” Similarly, albeit with less bitterness, Col. Lewis K.
Underhill instructed his students at the School for Military Government
that the 1940 edition of FM 27–5 was too lenient and
gives us the impression the objective of promoting the welfare of the governed
in occupied territory is almost as important as the objective of military necessity. In fact, you get the impression from the text that our principal objective
in invading a foreign country is to bring light to the heathen. Now I can assure
you that is not realistic. There is only one legitimate objective of military
government and that is to win the war. It is a method of fighting behind the
lines, and is done by holding the civil population in subjection. . . . Military
government is not a missionary enterprise, and while you do pay attention to
the welfare of the governed, you do it because you are inherently decent and
because paying attention to their welfare where you can will tend to avoid the
more violent kinds of outbreaks against you; but it is utterly misleading to put
the welfare of the governed on par with military necessity. Everything you do
in military government has to be tested in the light of whether it will aid or
retard the campaign.9
The Army endorsed this view, and the 1943 edition of FM 27–5
dropped “welfare of the governed” and “considerate and mild treatment” as objectives of military government, injunctions that had been
a part of U.S. Army doctrine since the Civil War. Nevertheless, while
wartime attitudes stiffened some of the language contained in FM
27–5, the revised doctrine still recognized the merits of “just and reasonable” treatment and encouraged moderate policies. Rather than a
fundamental alteration in doctrine, the 1943 edition of FM 27–5 merely
reflected a modest shift in the pendulum between benevolence and
severity, two policies that had always enjoyed a dynamic relationship in
Army doctrine. Indeed, Army doctrine continued to view the relationship between soldiers and civilians as a reciprocal one. As long as the
population did not resist military authority it was to be treated well; but
should the inhabitants take up arms or support guerrilla movements,
then they were open to sterner measures. Thus, before, during, and after
the war, Army doctrine endeavored to strike a pragmatic, though often
uneasy, balance between humanity and severity, the exact proportions
of which were left undefined so that commanders could best respond
to the particular circumstances of the moment.10
Although governing occupied areas was a traditional military function, when the Army established a School for Military Government at
Charlottesville, Virginia, in May 1942, the move immediately drew criticism. Many believed that the institution represented a dangerous intrusion of the military into civilian affairs, labeling it a “school for gauleiters.” Several civilian departments of government likewise attacked the
school because they deemed the training of military specialists in civil
administration to be a direct threat to their own bureaucratic interests.
For its part, the Army was not at all enthusiastic about undertaking
civil administrative burdens, but it maintained that as a practical matter
it was the only agency with the training, organization, and personnel
to administer foreign populations during wartime. Moreover, military
necessity and the principle of unity of command demanded that all civil
and military forces be placed at the disposal of a single military commander so as not to impede the successful prosecution of the war. These
principles had long been core tenets of U.S. Army doctrine, for as Col.
Jesse Miller of the Provost Marshal General’s Military Government
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
The U.S. Army School for Military Government
Division noted in July 1942, “if there is one outstanding lesson to be
gained from prior American experiences in military government, it is
the unwisdom of permitting any premature interference by civilian
agencies with the Army’s basic task of civil administration in occupied
Ultimately, experience showed that the Army was right. After civilian agencies proved incapable of meeting their basic obligations during
the occupation of North Africa in 1942–1943, the Army assumed nearly complete control of civil affairs and military government functions
for the remainder of the war. Despite some failings of concept, policy,
and administration, the Army assembled a creditable record under trying circumstances, providing basic governmental services to over 200
million people worldwide.12
Much to the Army’s chagrin, the end of hostilities did not bring an
end to the service’s civil affairs and military government responsibilities.13 When the civilian agencies that ought to have assumed the burdens
of administering the occupied territories after the war proved unequal
to the task, the Army was forced to take on the mission. These postwar
occupations differed in important respects from those conducted during
the war. The wartime occupations had endeavored to restore law, order,
and basic governmental services for the purpose of facilitating the war
effort. The postwar occupations, on the other hand, had as a goal not
the restoration of antebellum conditions, but their transformation. In
Germany and Japan, the U.S. government endeavored to revolutionize
the political, social, and economic foundations of those societies to
ensure that they would never again become fertile ground for aggressive militaristic and antidemocratic forces. In Germany, this took the
form of the four “Ds”: denazification, decartelization, demilitarization,
and democratization. A similar program was imposed on Japan.14
The job of transforming Germany and Japan was enormous, and
it was a task for which most U.S. soldiers had little preparation. The
man chosen to bring American-style democracy to Germany, Lt. Gen.
Lucius D. Clay, had never cast a ballot in his life. His counterpart in
Japan, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, likewise had no special qualifications as a nation builder. Nor were many of their subordinates much better prepared. Partly because of the Army’s traditional
disinclination to dabble in politics and partly because civilian criticism
had led the School for Military Government to focus on purely administrative matters to the exclusion of policy, the majority of military
government personnel were unprepared for the mission of transforming
German and Japanese society.15
Nevertheless, America’s soldier-diplomats did not undertake their
assignment in a vacuum. Like U.S. soldiers charged with nationbuilding duties before them—including MacArthur’s own father four
decades earlier in the Philippines—they approached their work from a
perspective shaped by American political and cultural values. Although
their particular views on any given subject might vary, America’s
overseas governors generally believed in the virtue of the American
political, economic, and social system. Like the society from which
they were drawn, they believed in liberty, self-reliance, and individualism tempered by civic responsibility; in private property and industry
unfettered by overly intrusive government regulation; and in public
education’s vital role in laying the groundwork for full participation in
political and economic affairs. They also brought with them the prides
and prejudices of their day, including racist and ethnocentristic attitudes. This complex mosaic of cultural values was what often guided
their actions rather than any specific training.
Although charged with the task of transforming German and
Japanese society, the Army’s social engineers were aware that, in the
words of one Army manual, “in general, it is unwise to impose upon
occupied territory the laws and customs of another people.” Past experience had shown that such endeavors often produced much turmoil
and little results, as the indigenous body politic often rejected transplanted institutions. Indeed, Clay believed that “a foreign group cannot establish a successful revolution” in another society, while Army
officials in Japan stated that “only insofar as the Japanese leaders and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A U.S. military court tries a German civilian charged with
illegally possessing a firearm.
people recognized the goals of the Occupation as desirable could there
be hope that the alterations accomplished by the Occupation would
endure.” Bayonets could impose change, but only a genuine evolution
in the values and beliefs of the people could ensure that the subject
societies would be transformed—a process that required time and
indigenous support. Consequently, U.S. overseas administrators took a
conservative and pragmatic approach consistent with that adopted by
the Army in its pre-1940 nation-building endeavors. Rather than literally transposing American institutions on foreign societies, America’s
social engineers in uniform usually worked through existing institutions as much as possible, planting seeds—like reforming educational
systems and removing barriers to personal, political, economic, and
social expression—in the hope that these ideas would eventually take
root and flourish. Generally, they endeavored to build democracy from
the ground up, strengthening local institutions and appealing to the
will of the people wherever possible. Following military government
precedent, the Army rapidly restored most aspects of internal civil and
political life to lighten its own administrative burdens, build consensus,
and garner legitimacy.16
These wise policies were exceedingly difficult to accomplish.
Undesirable traits such as racism and wartime hatreds complicated their
execution. In fact, the very notion of transforming a foreign society was
in itself inherently ethnocentric. No matter how sensitive one tries to
be toward another culture—and sensitivity is an absolute prerequisite to
any successful aid, advisory, or nation-building mission—not to impose
one’s own notions is virtually impossible; after all, that is why the mission is usually being undertaken in the first place. Moreover, there are
times when reforms are so important, either to the subject society or to
the occupier, that they must be imposed whether popular or not.
The postwar occupations illustrated these age-old dilemmas well.
When U.S. officials deemed a particular change to be of critical importance, like denazification, they imposed it by fiat regardless of indigenous sentiments. Such impositions sometimes created a backlash from
the subject population. On the other hand, the Army’s policy of turning
over the workings of government as quickly as possible to indigenous
officials also undermined reform efforts, as local leaders often had
different goals and values than U.S. authorities. For example, once the
Army passed the job of denazification over to German authorities in
1946, those officials restored full citizenship rights to most ex-Nazis
after imposing only mild admonitions and fines, much to the distress
of many Americans. Similar problems occurred in other aspects of the
reform effort, with the result that many American-introduced concepts
either withered on the vine or were otherwise transformed or subverted.
Had America’s proconsuls had the luxury of an indefinite tenure and a
single agenda, they might have been more successful in transplanting
American institutions, but they did not. Neither the Army nor the nation
was willing to undertake the costs of indefinite tutelage. Furthermore,
military government personnel had to juggle the multiple goals of
promoting democracy, reducing the financial burdens of occupation
duty, achieving economic health and self-sufficiency, obtaining Allied
cooperation, and, with the onset of the Cold War, building bulwarks
against the spread of communism. Some of these goals were complementary, but others were not, and in endeavoring to balance them,
long-term reforms sometimes gave way to more pragmatic, short-term
Difficulties notwithstanding, the United States ultimately succeeded in transforming the former Axis powers into stable democratic
partners. This achievement encouraged some observers to believe
that social engineering was possible in a relatively short time. Such
conclusions overlooked both the failure of many American initiatives
and the hardiness of indigenous institutions. Moreover, the postwar
occupations had enjoyed several significant advantages over the type of
nation-building activities that the United States would attempt in many
third world countries. The occupations had occurred in peacetime, after
conflict had been terminated, law and order restored, and many of the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
institutions that might have impeded change had been destroyed by the
war itself. Having total control over a prostrate society also simplified
nation-building programs in Germany and Japan. Conquest facilitated
social engineering by discrediting the old ways and by providing a
powerful, physical demonstration of the superiority of American methods. Finally, in Germany and Japan, the United States was dealing with
modern, industrialized, and ethnically cohesive nations with strong
bureaucratic, political, and social institutions. Success in these areas
would not necessarily translate into an ability to work similar transformations in less developed and less homogenous societies or in societies
whose political and cultural heritages were radically unlike America’s
own. Future policy makers would not always appreciate these aspects
of postwar nation-building endeavors.18
The military government experience of the 1940s thus bequeathed
America’s soldiers, statesmen, and policy makers an ambivalent legacy.
Much had been accomplished, yet many problems remained unresolved.
One such issue involved the question of government organization for
overseas politico-military operations. In theory, the State Department
determined policy and the Army executed it. In practice, poor civilian
guidance and the press of events often meant that the Army exercised
broad powers over the conduct of overseas policy, both during the war
and the postwar occupations. Throughout the war the Departments of
State, the Treasury, and the Interior had fought fiercely both among
themselves and against the War Department over questions of function
and jurisdiction, and when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the
Foreign Economic Administration in 1943 to establish some coordination, the civilian agencies had fought against the prospect of unified
civilian direction just as vehemently as they had against the prospect
of military predominance. The Army’s commitment to the principle of
unity of command notwithstanding, the philosophical and bureaucratic
impediments to achieving centralized direction over overseas politicomilitary operations had never been fully overcome during the 1940s.
The result was an unsettled legacy that did not bode well for future
American foreign aid, nation-building, and pacification efforts.19
The experience of the 1940s also illustrated the impossibility of
separating political from purely military or administrative concerns,
no matter how hard soldiers and civilians sought to do so. Political
issues and consequences were embedded in even the most technical
and seemingly innocuous administrative questions, and by necessity
rather than by choice, U.S. soldiers had found that they had to exercise
considerable political judgment. The experience demonstrated that
the Army needed to be better prepared for politico-military missions.
Yet civilian criticism also reaffirmed for soldiers the old lesson that
military government and nation building were arduous and institutionally unrewarding. Thus, while the Army could not ignore the
military government function, strong traditions in American political
thought—traditions shared by soldiers and civilians alike—continued
to retard the development of military capabilities in political affairs.
Consequently, the Army’s military government training and doctrinal
systems emerged from the 1940s much as they had entered it. They
focused on the military, technical, and administrative aspects of civil
affairs—military government duty while avoiding detailed treatment
of political issues—issues that were not only difficult but, since they
were often situation specific, were largely irresolvable from a doctrinal
standpoint in any case. Nation building, as distinct from occupation
duty, was not discussed. Rather, the postwar Army, like its prewar predecessor, confined itself to prescribing some broad principles governing the Army’s relationship with foreign populations—principles that
stressed pragmatism, flexibility, and “firm-but-fair” policies designed
to balance military necessity with the needs and aspirations of the
local populace. How such a doctrine would fare under the demands of
the postwar world remained to be seen.20
Guerrillas, Civilians, and the Geneva Convention of 1949
Although U.S. Army doctrine on the treatment of guerrillas and
civilian populations emerged from World War II with its fundamental
principles largely intact, one outgrowth of the war that had the potential to alter these principles occurred in 1949, when the victorious
powers met at Geneva, Switzerland, to revise international law in light
of their wartime experiences. Many of the participating countries had
been occupied by the Axis powers during the war, had formed resistance movements to oppose those occupations, and had suffered under
exceedingly harsh Axis policies. Consequently, there was a general
movement to clarify and expand the protections accorded to civilian
populations during wartime. The convention reemphasized the rights
of noncombatants and narrowed the definition of military necessity—a
clause that armies had often used in the past to justify the harshest of
The conferees also took the extraordinary step of extending international law to internal conflicts. The 1949 agreement required that
signatory nations facing an internal war or rebellion treat humanely
“persons taking no active part in the hostilities.” The convention
made illegal the acts of humiliating, mutilating, torturing, or killing
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
such individuals; of taking them hostage; or of denying them due
process. These provisions were exceedingly controversial, as many
states felt that any rule affecting their internal affairs represented an
infringement on their sovereignty. Consequently, the language of the
treaty was vague in some respects. Similarly, although the convention attempted to extend the protection of “legitimate belligerents”
to members of resistance movements, the treaty still required that
individuals meet the same four criteria of the past to qualify for such
protection—responsible command, recognizable insignia, exposed
weapons, and proper conduct according to the laws of war.22
The results of Geneva were thus ambiguous. Champions of human
rights could point to significant victories, yet the treaty remained open
to conflicting interpretation. To what extent could international law
really be applied to the internal affairs of a nation, and at what point
did individuals cross the line from being bandits (to which international
law did not apply) to “privileged belligerents”? Were civilians who
participated in clandestine organizations that fed, clothed, housed, and
aided guerrillas “taking no active part in the hostilities,” and therefore
protected under the convention, or were they acting illegally and therefore outside of its protections? Finally, since most guerrilla organizations were either unable or unwilling to meet the four criteria of legitimacy, the convention had not really improved their status at all. These
ambiguities would provide fertile ground for confusion and debate for
decades to come.23
For the most part the U.S. Army embraced the more humane
spirit of the 1949 convention. Collective punishment, reprisals, and
hostage taking—three tools the Army had employed in past counterinsurgencies—were banned after the United States ratified the Geneva
Convention in 1955, as were all measures of intimidation or terror. The
Army also required U.S. soldiers to follow the treaty’s internal warfare
prescriptions in all advisory and operational missions abroad, including those involving purely indigenous resistance movements. On the
other hand, while the Army continued to espouse the same enlightened
principles of justice, humanity, and good troop conduct that had long
been the foundation of U.S. Army policy, it also continued to apply to
irregulars the same strict criteria of legitimacy that had existed prior to
World War II. Similarly, the Army continued to maintain that civilians
who gave guerrillas supplies, money, or intelligence could be punished.
Civilian property could still be destroyed if the destruction served a
demonstrable military purpose, and civilian populations could still be
relocated as long as such action was performed humanely. The carrot
and stick thus remained inextricably linked in the uneasy, yet symbi20
otic, relationship that had long characterized the conduct of American
counterinsurgency operations.24
The Army and the Challenges of the Postwar World
The Geneva Convention was just one example of how World War
II had altered the political and military landscape in which the postwar Army would have to maneuver. In addition to wrestling with new
global responsibilities and Cold War threats, the postwar Army found
itself under constant pressure to absorb increasingly sophisticated technologies, from atomic weapons to helicopters, in ever shorter lengths
of time. These developments placed enormous strains on the service’s
doctrinal, materiel, organizational, and training systems, as the Army
struggled to prepare for the divergent requirements of nuclear, conventional, and irregular warfare; domestic duties; and overseas constabulary functions. The result of all these pressures and competing needs
was a doctrinal treadmill, with the Army’s basic statement of fundamental doctrine, FM 100–5, Operations, undergoing eight different
editions between 1941 and 1976. Force structures underwent similar
changes. Over the course of a single ten-year period (1955–1965), the
Army twice overhauled its basic divisional structure while dabbling
with a number of air cavalry, airmobile, Ranger, Special Forces, and
light infantry formations. All of these factors impeded the ability of
soldiers to absorb and understand doctrine.25
America’s superpower status, when coupled with the Cold War and
the introduction of weapons of mass destruction, also complicated the
Army’s world by intertwining political and military affairs to an extent
far greater than before. This resulted in an unprecedented degree of
military influence on political and diplomatic affairs, and an equally
deep penetration of traditionally military spheres by civilian policy
makers who believed that war in the nuclear age was too important to
be left to generals. The advent of the national security state was accompanied by the development of an entirely new class of civilian strategists, analysts, and scientists who fueled the creation of what one author
termed an “era of overthink.” Driven by the belief that technology had
revolutionized warfare, many national security intellectuals declared
history to be irrelevant in establishing future strategies and doctrines.
One consequence of this trend was that doctrine, which had traditionally represented a distillation of experience, began to reflect an increasingly theoretical influence in which projections of future technologies
and behaviors began to overshadow lessons from the past. Although
scholars of strategy initially focused their attention on nuclear affairs,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the plethora of civilian think tanks, institutes, and analysts would eventually have a profound influence on how the United States approached
counterinsurgency, pacification, and nation-building issues.26
The difficulties facing the Army in the realms of organization and
doctrine after 1945 were matched by equally daunting foreign policy
problems for the nation as a whole. In assessing the challenges of the
postwar world, America’s attention initially focused on Western Europe,
an area with which the United States had strong cultural, economic, and
political ties. Six years of warfare had made the region vulnerable to
communism, either through internal subversion or by overt aggression
from the Soviet Union’s new lodgments in Eastern Europe. To counter
these threats, the United States during the late 1940s developed a dual
strategy of economic development and military assistance that would
serve as its fundamental recipe for the containment of communism for
the next half-century.
In March 1947 President Harry S. Truman requested that Congress
appropriate a mixture of economic and military aid to prevent Greece
and Turkey from falling under the shadow of totalitarianism. Three
months later Secretary of State George C. Marshall unveiled a massive
$13 billion program of economic and technical assistance for the rest of
Europe—a sum that, if expressed in 2004 dollars, would exceed $102
billion. The overwhelmingly economic focus of these first Cold War
programs reflected the widespread belief that political systems were
largely shaped by economic conditions and that communism and other
radical ideologies flourished in economically depressed conditions.
Eliminate the socioeconomic environment in which communism bred,
and the danger of subversion would likewise diminish.27
The stunning success of the Marshall Plan in restoring Western
Europe encouraged the United States to apply the same formula in
various degrees around the world to any nation threatened by communism. U.S. policy makers were aware, however, that economic aid and
technical assistance alone could not always keep the Communists at
bay, either because the United States lacked the financial resources to
uplift every threatened part of the world simultaneously or because the
Communists had already established firm footholds before American
help could arrive. Moreover, even healthy democratic societies were
vulnerable to external aggression. Consequently, in 1949, two years
after the announcement of the Marshall Plan, the United States strengthened the military aspects of its effort to contain the spread of communism. The military response to the Cold War took two forms. The first
was a system of alliances, begun in Europe with the formation of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but later expanded to other
parts of the world with the creation of additional pacts. The second
was the establishment of a program of military assistance to flesh out
the armed forces of America’s new allies with U.S. arms and military
Two features of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, as the aid
program was initially known, are of interest. First, the legislation authorizing the program stated that the economic recovery of Europe, as well
as the other countries that were to receive aid, would receive a higher
funding priority than the provision of military assistance. This stipulation reflected the continued belief that internal socioeconomic strength
was the ultimate key to both democracy and national security. Second,
the military aid program, like America’s economic aid programs,
was intended to be a short-term, pump-priming measure, rather than
a permanent program. Self-help and reciprocity were the program’s
watchwords—ideals that were not always achieved as promptly and
thoroughly as the architects of the program might have hoped.28
The advent of the military assistance program represented an
immense new undertaking for the U.S. Army, one for which it had
relatively little experience. Between 1949 and 1960, the United States
provided nearly $24 billion worth of military aid to more than forty
nations around the world. By 1956, 20 percent of all Army officers
had served as military advisers to foreign forces. Initially, much of this
effort focused on creating conventional armed forces to resist Soviet
or other external aggression. However, internal subversion, either
indigenously generated or assisted by external Communist forces, soon
became equally as menacing. This observation was true not so much in
Western Europe, but rather in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where
the weakness of the old European colonial powers combined with
rising third world nationalism and socioeconomic change to create a
world ripe for revolution and civil war. In fact, there were so many
internal conflicts during the three decades between 1945 and 1975 that
the period has been described as the “era of people’s war.” Revolution,
colonial rebellions, and civil strife were certainly not new phenomena,
but their potential exploitation by the forces of communism made them
particularly dangerous in the minds of American Cold War strategists.
This was especially true after the widespread dissemination of Chinese
Communist leader Mao Tse-tung’s theories of revolutionary warfare in
the 1950s and early 1960s.29
Early Communists like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V. I. Lenin,
and Leon Trotsky had always considered guerrilla warfare as but one
tool in the revolutionary arsenal, and not necessarily the most important
one. Rather, they had regarded urban insurrection and conventional
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
warfare as the primary weapons of revolution. Although the world’s
first Communist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR),
had employed partisan tactics during the revolution and civil war that
had given it birth, guerrilla methods never played a central role in
Soviet thinking. When the Soviet Union published a manual on insurrectionary warfare in 1928, the book contained only a single chapter
on guerrilla warfare—a chapter that was written not by a Soviet, but
by an obscure Vietnamese Communist, Ho Chi Minh. Consequently,
from the time U.S. soldiers first began to contemplate measures to
combat socialist revolutionaries in the 1880s until World War II, they
approached the subject largely in terms of urban warfare and domestic
disturbances rather than as counterguerrilla warfare.30
All this began to change in 1949, when Mao Tse-tung’s rural-based
insurgency finally toppled Chiang Kai-shek’s regime in China after
more than two decades of war and revolution. Over those years Mao had
been a prolific writer, committing to paper his thoughts on the nature
of war, revolution, and the course of the Chinese Civil War. Differing
significantly from most Soviet strategists and their disciples among the
Chinese Communist Party (CCP), he rejected urban-centered strategies
for rural-based guerrilla warfare. Much of what Mao had to say about
guerrilla warfare was not new, for the basic tenets of guerrilla combat
have been known for centuries. In fact, he shared the traditional view of
guerrilla warfare as an inferior tool—one that was unlikely to triumph
against a regular army unless the guerrillas eventually created their own
conventional forces. But he correctly gauged that rural guerrilla warfare could lay the foundations for a successful revolution, at least under
the conditions he found in contemporary China. What made Mao’s
methods unique were not his military stratagems, but his blending of
traditional guerrilla methods with Leninist organizational techniques
to create a mass, peasant-based, nationalistic armed movement firmly
under the control of the Communist Party.31
Although a Marine officer had warned his Army colleagues about
the potency of Mao’s methods in a 1941 article, the Army would not
begin to study Mao until the 1950s, after his final triumph had demonstrated the power of his ideas. Even then, intensive study was slow
in coming, partly because of the Army’s conventional focus, partly
because the import of Mao’s methods was not yet fully clear, and
partly because the Army’s first direct clash with Mao’s forces occurred
during a largely conventional war on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover,
one must remember that Mao’s victory had not been certain. China’s
Communists had come perilously close to being defeated several
times during their long struggle, and, had Japan not invaded China and
subsequently been defeated by the United States in World War II, the
Chinese Communists may well have failed.32
But fortune smiled on Mao, and his victory over Chiang Kai-shek
in 1949, followed by the triumph of his Vietnamese disciple Ho Chi
Minh over French colonialists in neighboring Indochina in 1954, eventually catapulted his methods to the forefront of Cold War strategy.
Although most of Mao’s writings focused on explaining the nature of
China’s political and military situation, the leaders of radical movements around the world treated his words as if they were prophecy.
In Mao’s three stages of revolutionary warfare they thought they had
found the ideal formula by which a relatively small, highly disciplined
cadre could organize the rural masses of an underdeveloped country
to overthrow an unpopular, repressive, or colonial regime. Since, by
happy coincidence, World War II had shattered the grip of the old
imperial powers and unleashed hitherto suppressed nationalistic sentiments throughout the third world, Mao’s revolutionary war philosophy
became the very embodiment of the era of people’s war.33
By the 1960s many Americans had come to share this view, particularly after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev openly embraced “wars
of national liberation” as a vehicle with which to further communism’s
struggle against the West. Taking the challenge to heart, U.S. soldiers,
statesmen, and civilian theorists alike rushed to obtain copies of what
ultimately became known as Mao’s little red book to understand what
they believed was the next phase of world communism’s master plan.
In the process, many theorists—American and foreign, Marxist and
non-Marxist—became more doctrinaire than Mao himself, asserting
universal applicability to concepts Mao had originally envisioned only
for China in the 1930s and 1940s. The Chinese government actively
promoted the notion that Mao’s precepts were universal, both as a way
to make war on the West without risking a nuclear confrontation and
as a means of elevating China’s standing in its rivalry with the Soviet
Union for leadership of the Communist world. Such analysis ignored
Mao’s own warning that each military and revolutionary situation had
its own rules and circumstances that would doom to failure any attempt
to apply slavishly a particular doctrine. Nevertheless, many theorists
came to believe that Mao had done for guerrilla warfare what the
atom bomb had done to conventional warfare—he had revolutionized
it. By blending modern techniques of Communist Party organization,
propaganda, and population control with the ancient arts of guerrilla
warfare, some observers believed Mao had created a whole new form
of warfare, unprecedented in scope, for which all previous experience
was irrelevant.34
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
One aspect of Communist theory that many Western analysts found
appealing was Mao’s statement that political, rather than military,
considerations were paramount in revolutionary warfare. To many,
this idea made Maoist-style warfare qualitatively different from all
past guerrilla and revolutionary conflicts. But the assertion by Mao’s
Western disciples that prior guerrilla conflicts had been apolitical was
historically incorrect.35 Past revolutionary movements may have been
less sophisticated in organization and technique, but their leaders certainly had been aware of the political and psychological components of
their struggles. Nevertheless, Mao’s dictum of political primacy had the
effect of further promoting civilian influence in the formulation of military doctrine. Indeed, with the exception of nuclear warfare strategy,
no other area of military thought would be so influenced by politicians
and civilian theorists during the initial postwar decades than counterinsurgency. There was, of course, nothing wrong with this, as long as
the policies and doctrines that emerged from the intellectual tumult of
the 1960s were workable and based on reality rather than on theoretical
constructs or overly doctrinaire readings of Mao and other Communist
theorists. Unfortunately, that was not always the case, and some of the
“overthink” that transpired during the era of people’s war would prove
counterproductive. In fact, fascination with Mao produced a certain
rigidity in American counterinsurgency thought during the 1960s and
1970s that earlier doctrine had lacked and that seems particularly dated
in the light of the post–Cold War world.
But that is jumping ahead in the story. During the decade that followed World War II the Army grappled with a number of insurgencies
that had erupted in areas formerly occupied by the Axis powers, as
Communists around the world endeavored to exploit the vacuum created by Axis withdrawal and the frailty of many postwar governments
and colonial regimes. For the most part, the Army undertook this job in
a doctrinal void, without the benefit of a detailed written doctrine for
counterguerrilla warfare or any familiarity with the writings of Mao.
How it met the challenges posed by the postwar revolutions is the subject of the next two chapters.
Edwin Corr and Stephen Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict: Old Threats in a New World
(Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992), p. 6.
Department of Defense, Joint Publication 1–02, Department of Defense Dictionary
of Military and Associated Terms, 12 Apr 2001, as amended 25 Sep 2002, p. 117.
Robert Doughty, The Evolution of U.S. Army Tactical Doctrine, 1946–76 (Fort
Leavenworth, Kans.: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1979), p. 1; John
Mills, “U.S. Army Doctrine—Far Sighted Vision or Transient Fad?” (Master’s thesis,
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College [CGSC], 1987), pp. 10–12.
Andrew Birtle, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine,
1860–1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1998).
For background on the Werewolf movement, see Perry Biddiscombe, The Last
Nazis: SS Werewolf Guerrilla Resistance in Euorpe, 1944–1947 (Charleston, S.C.:
Tempus, 2000), and Charles Whiting, Werewolf: The Story of the Nazi Resistance
Movement, 1944–1945 (Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword Books, 1996).
War Department Field Manual (FM) 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations
(tentative) (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1939), pp. 229–31;
FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, 1941, pp. 238–40; FM 100–5,
Field Service Regulations, Operations, 1944, pp. 284–86; FM 100–5, Field Service
Regulations, Operations, 1949, pp. 231–33.
For background on the legality of guerrilla warfare, see Lester Nurick and Roger
Barrett, “Legality of Guerrilla Forces Under the Laws of War,” American Journal of
International Law 40 (July 1946): 563–83.
FM 27–5, Basic Field Manual, Military Government, 1940, p. 4.
First quote from Justin Williams, “From Charlottesville to Tokyo: Military
Government Training and Democratic Reforms in Occupied Japan,” Pacific Historical
Review 51 (1982): 417. Second quote from Carl Friedrich et al., American Experiences
in Military Government in World War II (New York: Rinehart and Co., 1948), p. 27.
William Daugherty and Marshall Andrews, A Review of U.S. Historical Experience
with Civil Affairs, 1776–1954, Operations Research Office Technical Paper, ORO–
TP–29, Chevy Chase, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University,
1961, pp. 234–35; FM 27–10, Rules of Land Warfare, 1940, pp. 4–5, 7, 85–90; FM
27–5, United States Army and Navy Manual of Military Government and Civil Affairs,
1943, pp. 7–8; FM 27–5, United States Army and Navy Manual of Civil Affairs Military
Government, 1947, pp. 6, 9–10.
First quote from Earl Ziemke, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany,
1944–1946, Army Historical Series (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military
History, 1975), p. 12. Second quote from Harry Coles and Albert Weinberg, Civil
Affairs: Soldiers Become Governors, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1964), p. 15, and see also pp. 4–5, 16–17, 22–26.
Daugherty and Andrews, Historical Experience with Civil Affairs, pp. 199, 260; Provost
Marshal General, History of Military Government Training, 4 vols., 1945, 1:6–10, U.S.
Army Center of Military History (CMH), Washington, D.C.
Coles and Weinberg, Civil Affairs, pp. 3, 56–66, 92; Ziemke, Occupation of
Germany, pp. 15–16; Daugherty and Andrews, Historical Experience with Civil Affairs,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
pp. 444–50; Martin Kyre and Joan Kyre, Military Occupation and National Security
(Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1968), pp. 19–24; Daniel Fahey, Jr., Findings,
Analysis, Conclusions, and Recommendations Concerning U.S. Civil Affairs/Military
Government Organization, Department of the Army, 1951, p. 1, CMH (hereafter cited
as Fahey Report).
Prior to World War II, the Army had used the terms civil affairs and military government interchangeably. One of the conceptual changes that emerged during the war
was the creation of a distinction between these terms. In the new lexicon, civil affairs
referred to the exercise of varying degrees of governmental authority short of full
control, usually over predominantly friendly areas. The term military government was
limited to the imposition of absolute military control, usually over hostile areas. During
the 1950s the Army broadened the term civil affairs to include the entire relationship
between the Army and civilian communities. Military government thus became a subset
of civil affairs. This change reflected the increasing importance of civil and political
matters in the conduct of postwar overseas operations of a constabulary, contingency,
and assistance nature, where the Army would not be operating as an occupation power.
Kyre and Kyre, Military Occupation, pp. 10–16.
Robert Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls: United States Military Government
in Germany and Japan, 1944–1952 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press,
1984), pp. 59, 93, 96; Fahey Report, p. 2; Ziemke, Occupation of Germany, p. 432; John
Pappas, “A Review of U.S. Civil Affairs/Military Government, 1778–1955: An Analysis
of Concepts” (Student thesis, Army War College, 1955), p. 21; John Mason, “Training
American Civilian Personnel for Occupation Duties,” American Journal of International
Law 40 (January 1946): 180–81; Williams, “Charlottesville to Tokyo,” pp. 421–22;
General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), History of
the Nonmilitary Activities of the Occupation of Japan, 1952, pp. 1–9, CMH.
Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls, p. 105; Pappas, Review of U.S. Civil
Affairs/Military Government, p. 20; Eric Bohman, “Rehearsals for Victory: The War
Department and the Planning and Direction of Civil Affairs, 1940–43” (Ph.D. diss., Yale
University, 1984), pp. 467–68.
First quote from Coles and Weinberg, Civil Affairs, p. 146. Second quote from
Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls, p. 104, and see also p. 105. Third quote from
SCAP, History of Nonmilitary Activities, p. 37. Henry Hille, “Eighth Army’s Role in the
Military Government of Japan,” Military Review 27 (February 1948): 9–10.
Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls, p. 66; Koppel Pinson, Modern Germany
(New York: Macmillan, 1966), pp. 42–45; James Tent, Mission on the Rhine (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 312; SCAP, History of Nonmilitary Activities, pp.
57–58; John Gimbel, The American Occupation of Germany (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
University Press, 1968), p. 249.
Tent, Mission on the Rhine, p. 318; Conference of Scholars on the Administration
of Occupied Areas, 1943–55, 10–11 Apr 70, pp. 71–75, 82, Harry S. Truman Library,
Independence, Mo., copy in CMH; Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls, pp. 66,
417–22, 442–43; Michael Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science
and “Nation Building” in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 2000), pp. 79–80.
Ziemke, Occupation of Germany, pp. 21–22.
E. H. Vernon, “Civil Affairs and Military Government,” Military Review 26 (June
1946): 25–32; FM 27–5, United States Army and Navy Manual of Military Government
and Civil Affairs, 1943, pp. 5–10; FM 27–5, United States Army and Navy Manual of
Civil Affairs Military Government, 1947, pp. 7–15; William Swarm, “Impact of the
Proconsular Experience on Civil Affairs Organization and Doctrine,” in Americans as
Proconsuls, ed. Wolfe, pp. 398–415.
FM 27–10, The Law of Land Warfare, 1956, pp. 17–23.
Keith Suter, An International Law of Guerrilla Warfare: The Global Politics of Law
Making (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984), p. 15.
FM 27–10, The Law of Land Warfare, 1956, pp. 107, 152. For comments on the
inadequacy of the 1949 convention’s treatment of guerrilla and internal conflicts, see
Suter, International Law of Guerrilla Warfare, pp. 10–17; John Moore, “Low-Intensity
Conflict and the International Legal System,” in Corr and Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict,
pp. 276–87; Robert Powers, “Guerrillas and the Laws of War,” U.S. Naval Institute
Proceedings 89 (March 1963): 82–87; Morris Greenspan, “International Law and Its
Protection for Participants in Unconventional Warfare,” Annals 341 (May 1962): 30–41.
FM 27–10, The Law of Land Warfare, 1956, pp. 3, 23–28, 31, 33, 34, 106–07,
144–45, 148–49.
Mills, “U.S. Army Doctrine,” pp. 2, 8, 14; Douglas Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency
Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977),
p. 71.
Harry Coles, “Strategic Studies Since 1945, the Era of Overthink,” Military Review
53 (April 1973): 3–16; Dennis Vetock, Lessons Learned: A History of U.S. Army Lesson
Learning (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: U.S. Army Military History Institute, 1988), p. 92.
Walter Hermes, Survey of the Development of the Role of the U.S. Army Military
Advisor, OCMH Study, Office of the Chief of Military History (OCMH), 1965, p. 61,
CMH; “Marshall Plan Changed the Face of Europe,” Washington Post, 25 May 97, p. 1.
Andrew Birtle, Rearming the Phoenix: U.S. Military Assistance to the Federal
Republic of Germany, 1950–1960 (New York: Garland, 1991), pp. 10–12.
Timothy Lomperis, From People’s War to People’s Rule (Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp. 7–11. For an overview of America’s experience in
providing military aid, see Hermes, Development of the Role of the U.S. Army Military
Advisor; Harold Hovey, United States Military Assistance (New York: Frederick A.
Praeger, 1965); James Lacy, “Origins of the U.S. Army Advisory System: Its Latin
American Experience, 1922–1941” (Ph.D. diss., Auburn University, 1977).
Walter Laqueur, Guerrilla: A Historical and Critical Study (Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1976), pp. 141–46, 151–52, 172–77; Harold Nelson, Leon Trotsky and the
Art of Insurrection, 1905–1917 (London: Frank Cass, 1988), pp. 14–15, 24–25, 31,
126; Conrad Lanza, “Communist Warfare,” lecture, General Staff School, 1919–1920;
Cassius Dowell, Confidential Supplement to Military Aid to the Civil Power (Fort
Leavenworth, Kans.: 1925); Bernard Semmel, ed., Marxism and the Science of War
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 19–24; Franklin Osanka, ed., Modern
Guerrilla Warfare; Fighting Communist Guerrilla Movements, 1941–1961 (Glencoe,
Ill.: Free Press, 1962), pp. 58–71.
Robert Asprey, War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History, 2 vols. (Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), 1:387; John Pustay, Counterinsurgency Warfare (New York:
Free Press, 1965), p. 35; Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. 245, 376, 385; Frank Trager, “Wars
of National Liberation: Implications for U.S. Policy and Planning,” Orbis 18 (Spring
1974): 61–68; Mao Tse-tung, Selected Military Writings of Mao Tsetung (Peking:
Foreign Language Press, 1967).
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
James Griffith, “Guerrilla Warfare in China,” Cavalry Journal (September–October
1941): 12; Ian Beckett, ed., The Roots of Counter-Insurgency: Armies and Guerrilla
Warfare, 1900–1945 (New York: Blandford Press, 1988), p. 127.
Semmel, Marxism and the Science of War, pp. 25–27; Walter Jacobs, “Mao TseTung as a Guerrilla—A Second Look,” Military Review 38 (February 1958): 26–30.
John Shy and Thomas Collier, “Revolutionary War,” in Makers of Modern Strategy,
ed. Peter Paret (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 840–44; Mao,
Selected Military Writings, pp. 77–80; J. Bowyer Bell, The Myth of the Guerrilla:
Revolutionary Theory and Malpractice (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1971), p. 36.
Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. 374, 376, 384–85, 396.
The Counterinsurgency
Advisory Experience
Revolution was in the air in 1945. The ravages of war and occupation had torn the fabrics of many societies. The end of World War II
opened the door for additional strife, as competing social, economic,
and political groups sought to reassemble their broken countries in
ways that reflected their particular interests. In most cases the antagonists confined their battles to the political arena, but occasionally
the struggles turned violent. Although favoring democratization and
decolonization, the United States sought to suppress many of these
revolutions out of fear that they would lead to the establishment of
Communist regimes. Four countries in particular received considerable counterinsurgency support from the United States in the years
immediately following World War II: China, Greece, the Philippines,
and Indochina.
The Chinese Civil War, 1945–1949
The Chinese Civil War of 1945–1949 continued a struggle that had
begun in 1927, when the Chinese government under the leadership of
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his ruling Nationalist Kuomintang
(KMT) Party tried to exterminate the Chinese Communist Party.
The Japanese invasion of 1937 partially suspended this conflict, as
Chiang joined Communist leader Mao Tse-tung in an uneasy alliance
against the invader. When Japan surrendered to the Allied powers on
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
2 September 1945, Chiang and Mao squared off once again to determine China’s destiny.
World War II had worked to Mao Tse-tung’s advantage. Prior to the
Japanese invasion the Chinese Communist Party had been on the run,
as the government had forced Mao’s army to flee to north China in the
famous “Long March.” The KMT’s conventional forces bore the brunt of
the Japanese invasion, enabling Mao not only to regroup, but to expand
his guerrilla forces by capitalizing on hostility toward the Japanese invaders. As a result, the Communist movement grew from 40,000 party members and 92,000 guerrillas in 1937 to 1.2 million members and 860,000
soldiers by August 1945, by which point the party controlled nearly 20
percent of China’s population. Japan’s surrender provided further opportunities for Mao, as the withdrawal of Japanese troops from northern and
eastern China created a vacuum that the CCP’s northern-based guerrillas were better situated to exploit than Chiang’s armies in south-central
China. The United States did what it could to help Chiang in the race
to reoccupy northeastern China, transporting nearly 500,000 Chinese
government soldiers to the north. It also deployed approximately 50,000
U.S. marines to northern China, ostensibly to facilitate the repatriation
of Japanese personnel but more pointedly to prevent either the Chinese
Communist Party or the Soviets, who had invaded Manchuria in the closing days of the war, from gaining control over key population, transportation, and mining centers.1 (Map 2)
These partisan actions notwithstanding, the United States genuinely hoped for a peaceful resolution to China’s internal strife. Although
it officially recognized Chiang’s government, it realized that his
regime was severely flawed. The Nationalist government was oppressive, inefficient, and corrupt, and many U.S. officials sympathized, at
least in principle, with the Communists’ call for social, political, and
economic reform. Moreover, the United States desperately wanted a
strong, united China to counterbalance Soviet influence in the Far East.
A new civil war, even if it resulted in a Nationalist victory, threatened
to invite Soviet encroachment. Consequently, rather than simply backing Chiang, U.S. officials worked toward the peaceful reunification of
China. The United States hoped to persuade Mao to lay down his arms
while convincing Chiang to create a reformed government in which
all political parties could compete through peaceful, democratic processes. Toward this end, President Truman sent retired General George
C. Marshall to China in December 1945 to broker a peace between
Mao and Chiang. Marshall negotiated a cease-fire in January 1946
that included the provision of nearly 1,000 U.S. soldiers as part of a
tripartite truce enforcement mechanism. The effort, which marked one
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
U.S. soldiers meet with Communist guerrillas in an attempt to
negotiate a truce to the Chinese Civil War.
of the U.S. Army’s first experiences in international truce enforcement
and peacekeeping, failed. Neither Mao nor Chiang was interested in
compromise, and by 1947 the civil war was in full swing.2
The Nationalist government labored under a number of severe
handicaps during the ensuing conflict. Years of war had left the economy in a shambles, and the corrupt and inefficient government had little
appeal among the masses, many of whom found Communist promises
of agricultural reform and land redistribution attractive. Though he too
espoused reform, Chiang proved either incapable or unwilling to make
the far-reaching changes needed to strengthen his administration and its
appeal to the common man. So frustrated was the United States with
Chiang’s lackluster leadership that it sought to replace him, but it never
found someone equal to the task.
Chiang’s political failings were exceeded only, in the words of U.S.
Ambassador J. Leighton Stuart, by “the proclivity of the Generalissimo,
a man of proved military incompetence, to interfere on a strategic and
tactical level with field operations.” Foremost among Chiang’s strategic errors was his decision—taken against American advice—to rush
troops to Manchuria in the wake of the USSR’s withdrawal from that
10 0ϒ
70ϒ 50ϒ
80 ϒ
80 ϒ
Map 2
100 ϒ
11 0ϒ
O P L E ' S
Ya n
Hong Kong
11 0ϒ
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
region in 1946. This move overcommitted the government’s already
dispersed military forces. Moreover, Chiang tended to deploy his
troops defensively around towns and lines of communications, thereby
ceding the initiative to the Communists in the countryside. Chosen for
loyalty rather than talent, Chiang’s generals were unable to compensate
for his misguided policies. The Nationalists’ poorly trained, ill-treated,
and unmotivated soldiers paid the price for their leaders’ inadequacies,
exhibiting in turn a callous disregard for the civilian population that
further undermined public support for the government.3
Mao’s methods differed dramatically from Chiang’s. He moved
fluidly through the countryside, employing the ancient arts of guerrilla
warfare, attacking where the Nationalists were weak, retiring to remote
sanctuaries when they were strong, and relying on ambush and stratagem
to wear down his opponent. Mao’s real strength, however, was in his recognition of the political dynamics of warfare. Lacking both the veneer
of legitimacy and the coercive tools conferred upon the Nationalists by
virtue of their control over the formal machinery of government, he was
acutely aware of the necessity of building a firm political and economic
base among the people. Beginning at the “rice roots” level, Mao created a
tightly organized, hierarchical politico-military structure that mobilized,
inspired, and controlled China’s rural population. By skillfully blending
organizational acumen, propaganda, nationalism, and coercion with an
ideological vision, the Communist Party succeeded in harnessing China’s
resources for its particular ends.4
Mao especially stressed the importance of proper troop conduct,
impressing upon his soldiers an eight-point creed: speak politely, pay
fairly for what you buy, return everything you borrow, pay for anything
you damage, do not hit or swear at people, do not damage crops, do
not take liberties with women, and do not ill-treat captives. By following this program, Mao hoped to transform China’s population into
a hospitable ocean through which the guerrillas could move about as
easily as fish, taking shelter and sustenance from the human sea that
nurtured them.
By the time the civil war renewed in earnest in 1947, the conflict
had already reached the last of what Mao had postulated to be the
three stages of a protracted, insurrectionary war. The first stage—the
development of a mass political movement and an embryonic guerrilla capability controlled by the party—and the second stage—in
which that movement blossomed into full-scale guerrilla warfare—had
occurred over the past two decades. During the third and final stage,
Mao employed both guerrillas and large conventional forces to engage
Chiang in open warfare.5
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
As the war escalated, the inner contradictions of U.S. policy
became increasingly apparent. Uncomfortable with the Nationalist
regime and desirous of a peaceful settlement, President Truman had
suspended arms transfers to China in August 1946. He also circumscribed the role of the U.S. Army Advisory Group in China, prohibiting
personnel from either visiting combat zones or conducting any training
that might improve the operational performance of the KMT army.
Moreover, much of the equipment and advice provided by the mission
had been based on the premise that China’s armed forces would be
developed slowly in a peacetime environment with the principal task
of defending China from external aggression. The aid program had not
been designed for the immediate prosecution of an internal war—a war
that U.S. policy was trying to prevent. Thus, when the civil war erupted,
the government’s military forces were neither trained, organized, nor
equipped to meet the circumstances at hand.6
Only with the greatest reluctance did Truman gradually loosen
the restrictions governing U.S. military aid. This reluctance reflected
a belief on the part of senior officials that any increase in military
assistance without a concomitant move on Chiang’s part to implement
political, social, and economic reforms would be futile. Furthermore,
U.S. officials feared that an unfettered aid program would lead Chiang
to believe that the United States was so desperate to stop communism
that it would have no choice but to “sink or swim” with him, thus allowing the Nationalist government to ignore American calls for reform.
Still, the United States felt some moral obligation to help the antiCommunists, and in July 1947 it partially lifted the arms embargo. Not
until late 1947, however, did Washington permit the Chief, U.S. Army
Advisory Group to China, Maj. Gen. David G. Barr, to advise Chiang
on military operations. Even then, Washington insisted that Barr confine his advice to informal suggestions, opposing his and Ambassador
Stuart’s recommendations that the United States assign advisers down
to the regimental level and establish a formal operational planning
cell lest such moves embroil the United States in what it increasingly
regarded as a lost cause.7
While Washington continued to limit American involvement in
the war, Ambassador Stuart occasionally complained that the advice
the U.S. Army was providing was not responsive to Chinese conditions. In fact, most of the guidance proffered by the advisory group
was routine in nature, focusing on the establishment of conventional
command, staff, and logistical systems. But such advice was usually
sound, both because the essentials of military science and administration are broadly applicable to all forms of war and because by 1947 the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Communists were increasingly operating in large division- and corpssize units as Mao implemented the third phase of his revolutionary
strategy. Once Washington changed the advisers’ mission from building
a conventional army to aiding the Nationalists in the internal war, they
did indeed adapt to the situation. They advised the government that
Chinese troops should be trained for both irregular and conventional
operations and that Chinese divisions should be relatively light, mobile
formations bereft of the kind of artillery, tanks, and heavy equipment
found in American divisions of the day. Strategically, their advice was
equally sound, castigating Chiang for overextending his armies and
deploying them behind ancient city walls and in innumerable railroad
blockhouses where they were unable to implement “the American concept of finding, fixing, and destroying the enemy and are subject to the
dry rot of immobility.”8
Although they were no students of revolutionary warfare, U.S. soldiers also addressed the political aspects of the insurgency. From 1945
on, senior American officers including Marshall (both as Truman’s
emissary to China in 1946 and as secretary of state thereafter), Lt.
Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer (former commander of Allied forces in
China during World War II and another of Truman’s special emissaries
to China), and advisory chief Barr had recognized that “the military
problem in China is inextricably involved in psychological, moral, and
economic factors.” “The Chinese Communist movement,” Wedemeyer
told Nationalist leaders in August 1947, “cannot be defeated by the
employment of force. Today China is being invaded by an idea instead
of strong military forces from the outside. The only way in my opinion
to combat this idea successfully is to do so with another idea that will
have stronger appeal and win the support of the people. This means
that politically and economically the Central Government will have
to remove corruption and incompetence from its ranks in order to
provide justice and equality and to protect the personal liberties of the
Chinese people, particularly the peasants.” “It should be accepted,”
he concluded, “that military force by itself will not eliminate communism.” Included in the list of reforms advocated by U.S. soldiers were
the introduction of “good government,” the end of police terror, and a
variety of land and tax reforms.9
Reforms of this kind were outside the normal bailiwick of
American military advisers. Nevertheless, the advisers spoke out on
these matters because they recognized the inextricable link between
political and military issues. The areas of political significance to
which U.S. military personnel could speak to most directly concerned
the indifference with which Chinese officers treated their men and the
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
arrogant way government soldiers treated the population at large. To
remedy the situation, U.S. soldiers urged greater troop indoctrination,
heightened discipline, and the establishment of a more efficient military justice system. But punishment alone was not enough, and they
also advocated the provision of better food, clothing, pay, and medical
care for soldiers and their families to raise morale and redress some of
the underlying problems that led soldiers to prey on the public.10
By late 1947 Ambassador Stuart had come to the conclusion that
the U.S. Army could play an even greater role on the civil front than
just encouraging better discipline and troop care, and he joined Barr
in advocating the creation of a military government section within the
Army advisory group. Staffed by soldiers knowledgeable in military
government techniques and civilians familiar with Chinese political
and economic problems, the proposed section would advise Nationalist
forces in civil affairs. Although reflecting certain Maoist influences, at
its heart the idea was not revolutionary at all. Rather, it merely sought
to apply traditional principles of international law and military government—principles first codified in U.S. Army doctrine by General
Orders 100 during the American Civil War—to China’s civil war. Stuart
and Barr believed that these precepts, which tried to balance humanitarian concerns and enlightened administration with military necessity,
would, if properly implemented, greatly increase both the government’s
popularity and its control over the nation’s resources.11
Once the Nationalists had been trained in military government
techniques, Barr envisioned a multiyear campaign in which the government would slowly and systematically spread its control northward,
starting from its bastions south of the Yangtze River. In contrast to the
past, Barr recommended that the government not try to increase its
territory until it had established firm control over the areas it already
possessed. After occupying a region, Nationalist forces, with the aid of
U.S. civil and military advisers, would establish “good government”
and implement agrarian reforms. Food and other relief measures would
alleviate suffering and win popular support, while the army rooted out
the remaining guerrillas. To free the army for further offensives, Barr
proposed that the government create an extensive system of militias to
maintain control over pacified areas, guard lines of communications,
and protect the population from any resurgence of Communist intimidation. Only after all of these measures had been undertaken would
Nationalist forces move north to repeat the process in another area,
until government control gradually spread to the entire country.12
Some Nationalist leaders shared Barr’s vision of an integrated
politico-military campaign. In fact, official government doctrine
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
espoused similar concepts. As early as 1933, Chiang had concluded
that anti-Communist warfare was “seventy percent political, thirty
percent military,” and had supplemented his military operations with
efforts to stem corruption, stabilize the economy, and improve local
administration. He reiterated this theme after World War II, telling
his governors in 1946 that “the government can crush the Communist
Army in five months, whereas the political fight will take another
five years” and urging them to develop programs that would improve
people’s lives and win them over from the Communists. The government’s “Manual for Bandit Suppression,” originally written in 1933
and reissued in 1945, emphasized good troop behavior to gain both
popular support and intelligence, noting that “the sure road to the
extinction of the Reds must take as its point of departure the abstention from annoying the people. Recruiting soldiers by force is annoying to the people; raping of women is annoying to the people. So is
looting; so is squeezing. Anyone committing any of these crimes is
certainly to be executed.” The manual also espoused vigilance, security, proper march procedures, guerrilla tactics, marksmanship, and
night operations. Population-control and counterinfrastructure measures were also a part of Chinese doctrine. As early as 1932 Chiang
had imposed a neighborhood watch system—called pao chia—based
on the principle of collective responsibility.13
One person who reportedly took these prescriptions to heart was
General Fu Tso-yi, who led the government’s counterinsurgency
effort in northern China. Considered an outstanding leader by the
Americans, Fu believed that an integrated politico-military effort that
bound the people to the government’s cause through honest administration and social reforms was the only way to defeat the insurgency.
He supported the creation of self-defense organizations controlled by
local leaders who knew the political and military topography of their
areas and who identified with the interests of the local population.
Such militias would be the primary vehicles for intensive intelligence,
propaganda, and population-control measures designed to mobilize
the population and destroy the “bandit cadres” that were the inner
fiber of the Communist movement. Like Barr, Fu believed that, “to
be effective, this work must be done thoroughly. If it is done only on
the surface, it would be useless.” He endorsed granting amnesty for
rank-and-file Communists, but he also avowed that Communist leaders, agents, and civilians who sheltered guerrillas should be “severely
punished and horribly tortured.” Areas that strongly sympathized
with the Communists or were otherwise under their control were to
be cleansed by “scorched earth tactics, hiding grain, carrying away
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
able-bodied men, not leaving a stick of wheat or blade of grass for
the enemy.”14
Neither Barr’s nor Fu’s prescriptions were fully implemented.
Though Chiang often spoke of reform, he made little effort to translate
words into deeds. Initiatives to improve troop behavior and governmental administration made little headway. While Washington did not
agree to Barr’s and Stuart’s plan to establish a military government section, Nationalist military leaders proved either unwilling or unable to
implement many of the advisory group’s military programs. By 1948
most U.S. political and military analysts had concluded that Chiang
was doomed. Nearly $2 billion worth of grants and credits (about half
of which were military in nature) had failed to stabilize China, and
while the Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated additional military aid, even
they believed that such assistance would only delay the government’s
inevitable collapse. Only billions more dollars, and perhaps military
intervention on an equally grand scale, could save the government,
and no one—politicians, diplomats, or soldiers—wanted that. Rather
than become sucked into the Chinese vortex, the Truman administration chose to continue providing limited military aid to the Nationalists
while simultaneously keeping them at arm’s length. The inevitable
result followed. During 1948 Communist offensives gobbled up one
isolated and overextended government garrison after another, and the
following year Chiang and his supporters fled to Taiwan, leaving Mao
free to consolidate his hold over mainland China.
Like Woodrow Wilson during the Russian Civil War, Truman had
been confronted with the choice of either supporting an unsavory antiCommunist regime or of acceding to a Communist victory. He had tried
to solve the dilemma by walking a policy tightrope, initially assuming the
mantle of honest broker and, when that did not work, of providing limited
assistance to the anti-Communists, hoping either to coerce them into
mending their ways or, should that fail, to minimize U.S. involvement in
the ensuing collapse. In the end, Truman succeeded in keeping the United
States out of an extremely costly and possibly unwinnable conflict, but,
like Wilson before him, he failed to attain his broader policy goals.15
For the Army, the Nationalists’ defeat was particularly frustrating.
Despite the limitations that both the U.S. and Chinese governments had
placed on them, the Army’s “old China hands” had exhibited a basic
appreciation for many counterinsurgency fundamentals. Indeed, many
of the principles that Wedemeyer, Barr, and others had recommended
in China—including close politico-military coordination; “good government” administration and modest reform; a strategy of progressive
area clearance; population security; good troop conduct; and aggressive,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
mobile, offensive operations—would become the hallmarks of American
counterinsurgency doctrine for years to come.
The Greek Insurgency, 1945–1949
While the civil war was raging in China, another insurgency was
occurring on the other side of the globe, in Greece. Prior to World War
II a multiplicity of factions—republican, monarchist, socialist, and
Communist—had struggled to shape the future of that impoverished
land. Those divisions continued to simmer during the Axis occupation,
as leftists, anti-monarchists, and nationalists banded together under
Communist leadership to form a National Popular Liberation Army
(ELAS). The liberation army used guerrilla techniques to fight not
only the Germans and Italians, but right-wing groups as well, some
of which in turn collaborated with the Axis. When British and Greek
monarchist troops entered Athens on the heels of withdrawing Axis
forces in the fall of 1944, ELAS attacked them in a bid to seize control
of the country. The attempt failed, and in February 1945 the warring
factions agreed to lay down their arms and to resolve their differences
peacefully. The truce was short lived. Elections in 1946 installed a
rightist government whose partisans initiated a reign of terror against
their political opponents. ELAS, which had secreted many of its weapons rather than surrendering them as called for in the 1945 accord,
re-formed as the Democratic People’s Army and resumed guerrilla
operations.16 (Map 3)
In the ensuing civil war the Communists refined the guerrilla warfare techniques that they had learned during the occupation by studying
Russian and Chinese manuals and by attending training camps run by
veteran Yugoslav partisans. Operating in small, lightly armed groups,
the “bandits,” as they were labeled by the government, ambushed
patrols, mined roads, and raided villages before fading back to forest
and mountain hideaways. Consciously following Mao’s ten military
principles, the guerrillas avoided unfavorable confrontations, concentrating their forces against weak government detachments and small
villages before tackling larger prey. Supporting the people’s army was
the yiafka, a formidable clandestine organization developed during the
occupation that provided the guerrillas with labor, supplies, guides,
money, and intelligence. Together with Communist Party cells and
front organizations, it helped mobilize and control the population in
support of the insurgency.17
Although the yiafka was vital to the insurgents, so too was the external assistance given by Greece’s three Communist neighbors—Albania,
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
January 1949
Area of Guerrilla Strength
High Ground over 1000 Meters
Map 3
Bulgaria, and especially Yugoslavia. These nations provided training,
equipment, and cross-border sanctuaries to which the guerrillas could
retreat when pressed by government forces. With this outside help, the
guerrillas established several base areas along the mountainous northern frontier, where they stockpiled supplies and established “liberated
zones” that boosted their claims of political legitimacy.
Thanks in part to resentment over government repression, the
insurgency grew to approximately 30,000 guerrillas, 50,000 yiafka
members, and 750,000 sympathizers by the end of 1947. Still, unsavory
conduct on the part of the insurgents—forcibly recruiting soldiers and
laborers, extorting supplies, and terrorizing rural communities—also
cost the Communists much public support. Caught between two brutal
antagonists and demoralized by the prevailing atmosphere of insecu43
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
rity and economic hardship, many people adopted a passive, apathetic
attitude that probably helped the guerrillas, who hoped that prolonged
chaos would eventually undermine the government.18
Hampered by a collapsed economy and political infighting, the
government’s response to the insurgency was weak. Advised by the
British to treat the insurgency as a problem of law and order rather than
a military conflict, the government initially tried to subdue the guerrillas using only the national police, the gendarmerie. Staffed largely by
Axis collaborators bent on settling old scores, this force was generally
distrusted by the population and incapable of coping with the guerrillas. The government responded by enlarging the gendarmerie to include
mobile combat police formations, but this had several disadvantages.
Not only did this create a rivalry between the police and the army, but
the gendarmes, lacking proper military training and equipment, proved
poor soldiers. Conversely, the gendarmerie’s preoccupation with counterguerrilla operations only further undermined its ability to perform
routine police duties.19
In October 1946 the government called in the newly formed Greek
National Army (GNA), but it was in no better shape than the police
to combat the guerrillas. The officer corps was racked by factional
infighting, while the soldiers, many of whom were pre–World War II
reservists, were old, tired, poorly trained, and indifferently cared for.
Weakened by an inefficient staff system and political interference, the
army responded to public pressure for protection from Communist
raids by dispersing its soldiers into so many small detachments that
it had few men leftover to conduct offensive operations. As in China,
such dispersion robbed the government’s forces of the initiative, sapped
morale, and complicated efforts to improve the organization and training of the army as a whole.20
By 1947 the Greeks, with British help, had begun to develop a
doctrine for “anti-bandit” warfare that reflected both British colonial
experience and German counterguerrilla operations in the Balkans during World War II, some of which the Greeks had experienced firsthand.
The emerging doctrine called for aggressive, offensive combat; night
movements; and deception, all with the purpose of killing guerrillas
rather than taking ground. A well-planned and -executed encirclement
with adequate forces was the preferred method of bringing the guerrillas to battle, but such operations went for naught unless accompanied
by the systematic destruction of the guerrillas’ clandestine politicomilitary infrastructure. This doctrine was basically sound, but as in
China, persuading the Greeks to practice what they taught in their staff
schools was not easy.21
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Greek soldiers engage Communist guerrillas.
The Greek Army launched its first major offensive in 1947. The
campaign, which was developed with British advice, set the pattern for
the rest of the war. It consisted of a series of sweeps and encirclements,
moving progressively from south to north up the Greek peninsula. Once
an area was cleared the bulk of the troops moved on to the next area,
leaving behind a small garrison for security. The endeavor failed. The
insurgents’ keen intelligence system usually allowed them to learn of
an impending operation and escape, while those guerrillas caught in an
encirclement had little difficulty slipping through gaps in government
lines. Planning and execution were shoddy, with the army frequently
allocating insufficient time and resources to make the operations truly
effective. Ultimately, the clearing operations took longer and absorbed
more troops than the government had anticipated, so that as the army
moved north it had progressively fewer soldiers to conduct new operations. By year’s end, over half of the army was tied down performing
static guard duties, while the guerrillas emerged largely unscathed.22
Meanwhile, in February 1947 Great Britain announced that while it
would continue its advisory effort, it could no longer afford the financial costs of rebuilding and rearming Greece. Consequently, President
Truman decided to assume much of this burden. In what became known
as the Truman Doctrine, the president declared in March that the United
States was determined “to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.” As in the case of
China and the subsequent Marshall Plan for Europe, the administration
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
believed that the best defense against revolution was “economic stability and orderly political process,” and it earmarked less than half of the
original $300 million aid package for military assistance.23
To oversee the aid program, Truman created an American Mission
to Aid Greece (AMAG), headed by Dwight P. Griswold. Griswold
shared Truman’s priorities, believing that the “defeat of communism
[is] not solely a question of military action. . . . Military and economic
fronts are of equal importance.” He attempted to use his authority to
produce a well-integrated effort devoid of the type of bureaucratic
infighting that had all too frequently marred past politico-military
endeavors. In this he did not succeed. The administration’s failure to
delineate clearly the relationship between Griswold and the American
ambassador to Greece, Lincoln MacVeagh, led to a bitter feud that was
not resolved until late 1948, when Truman appointed Henry F. Grady
to head both the embassy and the aid mission. Nor did finding the right
mix of civil and military programs prove to be an easy task. The military situation in Greece, as in China, proved too precarious to permit
any significant civil rehabilitation, while U.S. and British officers alike
advocated shifting aid priorities toward military assistance. After some
debate, a rough consensus gradually emerged between U.S. diplomatic
and military leaders that security concerns had to take precedence over
political and economic rehabilitation. Consequently, the United States
not only increased the amount of military aid, but devoted an ever larger
share of the economic aid package to war-related projects.24
Maj. Gen. William G. Livesay headed AMAG’s military component, the U.S. Army Group, Greece. As in China, the group’s role was
entirely logistical, partly because Truman was reluctant to become
embroiled in Greek internal affairs and partly because the British
already maintained military and police advisory missions in Greece.
Consequently, Washington instructed Livesay to limit his advice to
“personal” observations. This restriction quickly proved unsatisfactory.
Logistical and technical matters had wide-ranging organizational and
operational implications that could not be easily segregated. Moreover,
as in China, the United States came to the conclusion that indigenous
political and military leaders lacked the administrative skill and political will to do what needed to be done to win the war. Whereas China’s
problems were so massive that they overawed the stoutest of American
policy makers, the situation in Greece, a small country the size of
North Carolina, seemed much more malleable. Consequently, Truman
opted for measures that he had shunned in China. His first move was
to insert U.S. experts into Greek ministries where they exercised so
much influence that they controlled “almost all segments of the Greek
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
General Van Fleet (center, in cap) and Greek officials inspect
government troops.
economy.” Then, in December 1947 the Pentagon created the Joint U.S.
Military Advisory and Planning Group, Greece (JUSMAPG), through
which the United States assumed “operational guidance of the Greek
National Army.”25
Under the command of first General Livesay and then Lt. Gen.
James A. Van Fleet, the advisory group provided advice on all aspects
of the war. It drew up operational and administrative plans, coordinated
these plans with the Greek General Staff, and then helped to implement
them. It also stationed advisers at Greek military schools, training centers, and with each corps and division where they introduced American
tactical, training, and administrative doctrines. The result, recalled Van
Fleet, was that “I really had no orders from Washington that I would
command the Greek forces, but in practice I actually did.”26
The soldiers the Army sent to Greece believed that certain basic
principles governed the conduct of all military operations and that a
correct application of these principles would eventually bring success. Among these principles were an appreciation for the importance
of inspired leadership, professional competence, and high morale; a
belief that one must gain the initiative through decisive, aggressive
action; and an adherence to the principle of economy of force that led
the Americans to shun overly dispersed, passive deployments. With
these tenets in mind, the advisory group emphasized small-unit patrol
and combat skills, night operations to catch the guerrillas by surprise,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
winter operations to exploit the government’s logistical superiority over
the comparatively ill-clad and poorly supplied irregulars, and tactics
designed to find, fix, and finish an elusive opponent.
U.S. soldiers were particularly critical of what they regarded as
the Greek Army’s overreliance on artillery and air support. All too
often Greek commanders seemed content to engage the enemy at long
distances, cautiously advancing their infantry only after a preliminary
bombardment. Such tactics were ineffective, as the insurgents simply
withdrew out of harms way, leaving the Greeks to take possession of
a meaningless terrain objective without having destroyed the enemy.
Instead, the Americans stressed fire and movement in which the infantry advanced to close with and destroy the enemy, either without fire
support or under covering fire, rather than sitting back and waiting for
the artillery to drive the enemy off.27
U.S. Army advisers revamped the Greek Army training system
along American lines, introducing unit training and field exercises
for the first time and sending demonstration platoons made up of
Greek soldiers trained in American tactics to each infantry division.
Recognizing that intelligence was critical in bringing the elusive guerrillas and their shadowy support network to heel, the advisory group
stressed reconnaissance skills, the use of civilian spies and informants,
and improved intelligence staff work. It also supported the British in
their contention that the gendarmerie should be relieved of combat
duty so that it could focus on the critical tasks of maintaining law and
order and ferreting out the yiafka. All of these measures eventually paid
dividends, although U.S. proposals for creating specially trained longrange reconnaissance companies and establishing a central intelligence
agency to coordinate army, police, and paramilitary intelligence efforts
were not successfully implemented.28
Throughout, American advisers constantly strove to overcome
what they regarded as the Greek Army’s Achilles heel—its inertia and
lack of fighting spirit. They pushed for aggressive, continuous action
and relentless pursuit. They pressed the Greek government to remove
incompetent officers and to end untoward political interference in
operational and personnel decisions. Van Fleet also sought to energize the rank and file, suggesting that the Greek Army replace worn
out soldiers with younger draftees, increase its troop propaganda and
educational activities, and improve the lot of the common soldier and
his family. Ultimately, however, U.S. advisers recognized that military
morale reflected national morale and that neither would improve until
some measure of economic relief could be brought to the countryside.
Consequently, in November 1947 a panel of U.S. Army and British
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
military personnel agreed that “greater attention must be paid to the
rapid rehabilitation of liberated areas, so that the people in these areas
feel that the Government has their well-being at heart.” JUSMAPG
therefore suggested that Greek campaign plans include comprehensive
civil affairs programs designed to bring economic and social assistance
to areas as the Greek Army cleared them of guerrillas.29 This last proposal was not effectively implemented during 1948, and in November
of that year Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall recommended to
Secretary of State Robert Lovett and Ambassador Grady that the United
States shift its economic aid effort from cities to rural areas where the
real battle for the people was taking place. The diplomats agreed, and in
1949 the advisory group and the newly formed Economic Cooperation
Administration collaborated on a number of projects. With U.S. aid,
the Greek government put men to work on public works projects and
provided food, building materials, animals, seed, and farm implements
to refugees returning to areas cleared by military operations. These
projects were not always sufficiently large or coordinated to ameliorate
the harsh conditions in the countryside, but they did good work and
helped consolidate military gains.30
JUSMAPG also supported the creation of an armed militia, both
to free the army from static guard duties and to solidify rural pacification. Many such organizations already existed by 1947, but they were
clearly inadequate. Armed with an incredible assortment of weaponry, these groups were unresponsive to military control, poorly trained,
indifferently led, and prone to committing excesses that undermined
their usefulness in promoting pacification. The British opposed arming civilians, fearing that it would fuel an endless cycle of atrocity and
retaliation. Livesay’s initial reaction to Greek requests for arms for
civilians was similarly cool, partly because he shared British concerns
and partly because he felt that the civilian aid program should pay for
the weapons, as military aid funds were already overstretched. Still,
he considered the idea of arming civilians to be “militarily sound”
as it would give the villagers confidence, and “once the confidence
of the villagers has been gained they begin to lose their fear of the
bandits and give information about the bandits which is so vital to
Greek Army success.” When in the fall of 1947 the Greek government proposed the creation of a new type of local defense force—the
National Defense Corps (NDC)—the United States pledged its support on the condition that the government disband the older, ad hoc
militias. Originally conceived of as a type of minuteman formation,
the defense corps was to be organized into regionally based battalions, officered by military cadres, and filled out by ex-servicemen
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
and old reservists whose familiarity with the local people and terrain
would prove to be a significant asset in combating the guerrillas.31
The initiative proved only partially successful, as the Greeks
reneged on their promise to disarm the old vigilante organizations and
employed the National Defense Corps in mobile roles for which it was
not prepared, thereby leaving the villages it was supposed to be guarding vulnerable to guerrilla raids. In 1948 a new bargain was struck,
in which some NDC units became static defense troops, while others
were infused with younger draftees and transformed into mobile “light
infantry” battalions virtually indistinguishable from regular army formations. These units hunted guerrillas on a regional basis and supplemented regular army units during major cordon-and-sweep operations.
Meanwhile, the government created a new militia organization, the
Home Guard, to replace the paramilitary groups. Outfitted with over
50,000 American-supplied small arms, the Home Guard was led by
reservists; received training in guerrilla, patrol, and ambush tactics; and
was more tightly controlled by the Army than the older civilian bands.
It performed good service in 1949, guarding villages and installations,
monitoring subversives, protecting returning refugees, and otherwise
freeing the military for more offensive employment.32
Closely allied with providing security for the rural population
was the need to isolate the people so that they could not provide the
insurgents with the information, food, shelter, and recruits that the
guerrillas needed to survive. Prior to the time when the United States
began giving operational advice, the Greek government had developed three effective, yet harsh, tools to achieve these ends. In addition
to employing paramilitaries alternately to protect and terrorize the
population, the government arrested tens of thousands of people suspected of supporting the guerrillas. It executed some and exiled others—together with their families and often without trial—to remote
island internment camps. Though many innocent people were doubtlessly swept up in the dragnet, the mass arrests effectively weakened
the yiafka. Finally, the government also removed entire populations
from guerrilla-infested areas to drain the “sea” in which the guerrillas
“swam.” By November 1947 the government had forcibly evacuated
310,000 people, primarily from the insurgents’ northern base areas.
By 1949 the number of refugees had swollen to 700,000, roughly 10
percent of the Greek population. Some of these refugees had left their
homes voluntarily to escape the war. Others had been forced to flee
by the guerrillas, who hoped to overburden the government’s already
strained economic resources. But the majority were the product of
government relocation campaigns.33
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
The United States assumed an ambivalent stand on these measures.
Officially, it protested the use of terror, mass arrests, and population
removal. Certainly these activities made the depiction of the war as
a Zoroastrian struggle between democracy and totalitarianism more
difficult for the Truman administration. Moreover, U.S. officials were
genuinely uncomfortable with such tactics and believed that terror and
arrest without due process were ultimately counterproductive. But as
the war dragged on, many Americans felt that the goal of destroying
communism justified harsh means. “We should realize,” Secretary of
State Marshall instructed Griswold in 1947, “that stern and determined
measures, although of course not excesses, may be necessary to effect
the termination of the activities of the guerrillas and their supporters
as speedily as possible.” Most of the American diplomatic community
adhered to this line.34
U.S. soldiers were more outspoken. Although eschewing terror,
General Van Fleet did not inquire too closely into how the Greeks
treated guerrillas, believing that the “only good Communist is a dead
one.” He approved of the use of mass arrests and population relocations to destroy the yiafka and impede guerrilla access to the people.
Likewise, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, detailed by the Pentagon
to study the Greek situation, endorsed laying waste to sections of the
Greek countryside, noting that the “ruthless removal or destruction of
food and shelter in the mountain villages would compel all but insignificant guerrilla forces to either retire to the frontiers or accept combat in
the valleys and plains under adverse conditions.” Consequently, while
the Greek government occasionally curtailed its utilization of terror,
mass arrests, and refugee generation in response to outside pressure,
American support, at least for the latter two actions, helped ensure their
Although proffering American methods, Livesay and Van Fleet
recognized that to recast the Greek Army into a miniature U.S. Army
was inappropriate. When JUSMAPG designed a standard field division
for the Greek Army in 1949, it did not try to replicate an American
division, but rather created a structure adapted to Greek conditions.
Believing that tanks and heavy artillery were useful in only limited
situations, the United States provided Greece with weapons suitable for
mountain operations, such as mortars, machine guns, and pack artillery.
The advisory group reduced the number of motorized vehicles found in
infantry battalions and consolidated them into rear echelon formations
so that combat units would not be road-bound. Nor did Van Fleet have
any tolerance for expensive and complicated “high tech” solutions. He
repeatedly rejected proposals by U.S. and British aviators to outfit the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Greek Army with helicopters and specially trained troops capable of
operating with aerial resupply, stating that the GNA’s problem lay not in
moving to a particular location, but rather in motivating it to do something once it arrived. Horses and mules rather than combustion engines
were the U.S. Army’s prescription for counterguerrilla mobility in
Greece. The Army outfitted seven horse cavalry squadrons, improved
the efficiency of the Greek Army’s pack logistics system, and gave the
Greek military more mules than trucks.36
Many of the ideas offered by the American advisory group were
not new. Rather, they mirrored advice that the British military and
police missions had been giving the Greeks since 1946. Though they
did not agree on every issue, U.S. and British advisers held similar
views about the core problems facing the Greek Army and how to fix
them.37 Consequently, the American-designed campaign plan for 1948
did not differ significantly from the British plan for 1947, consisting of
a series of encirclement-and-sweep operations, moving progressively
from south to north. After the army cleared each area, the National
Defense Corps, police, and paramilitaries were to move in to prevent
guerrilla reinfiltration. What made the 1948 plan different from 1947
was thus not its overall conception, but the hope that U.S. advice would
make the Greek Army more effective in executing the plan. In this the
Americans were destined to be disappointed, for while the Greek Army
achieved some success, it continued to suffer from many of the underlying institutional weaknesses that had undermined its efforts in the past.
By year’s end the guerrillas had made good their losses and counterattacked government forces in the north.38
Fortunately for the government, several developments occurred
in 1948 and 1949 that drastically altered the strategic equation in the
government’s favor. In 1948 the Communists began consolidating their
forces from bands of 50 to 100 men into “brigades” and “divisions.”
These larger formations were less mobile, more visible, and more
dependent on a regular commissary than the smaller guerrilla bands.
Concomitant with this development was a shift to more positional
warfare, reflected not only in the creation of fortified base areas along
the border, but in assaults aimed at capturing medium-size towns. The
change represented a bid on the part of Communist Party chief Nikos
Zachariades to transform the guerrilla war into a more conventional
conflict akin to Mao’s third stage of revolution. Unfortunately for the
Greek Communists, they were not blessed by the same constellation of
factors that had made this shift possible in China. Rather than increasing the pressure on the government, the change merely rendered the
guerrillas vulnerable to the government’s superior firepower.39
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Zachariades’ timing was poor, but he was responding to wider
developments that he could not entirely control. Growing American
aid was one factor. Then, in June 1948 the Cominform, a committee representing the Communist parties of Eastern Europe, expelled
Marshal Josip Tito’s Yugoslavia over policy differences. This development eventually forced the Greek Communists to choose between
staying in the larger Communist camp or siding with Tito, their chief
benefactor. Zachariades’ shift to larger formations represented a bid to
alter the strategic balance inside Greece before that day came. When in
early 1949 Zachariades endorsed the Cominform’s decision that Greek
Macedonia should be granted autonomy—a policy widely regarded
as a stepping stone for its eventual acquisition by Tito’s arch rival,
Bulgaria—he irrevocably alienated Tito, created a split within his own
party between nationalists, internationalists, and Macedonian separatists, and gave the Greek government a patriotic platform upon which to
rally public opinion against the Communists. In July 1949 Tito retaliated by sealing Yugoslavia’s borders, cutting the Greek Communists off
from their primary source of sustenance and refuge. Albania eventually
followed suit, leaving the guerrillas with nowhere to run during the
government’s 1949 offensive.40
That offensive might still have produced unsatisfactory results
had there not been a third major development, the appointment, with
strong American support, of Field Marshal Alexander Papagos to the
newly created post of supreme commander of the Greek armed forces.
An undisputed patriot and man of action, Papagos both rallied the
nation and wielded his unprecedented powers to galvanize the military,
removing incompetent officers and insisting that his subordinates thoroughly execute Greco-American plans. Working closely with Van Fleet,
Papagos built on past U.S. initiatives in a way that ensured that the 1949
offensive would be the most effectively conducted campaign to date.
This, when coupled with missteps and divisions within the Communist
camp, laid the groundwork for victory.41
For 1949, Greco-American planners envisioned a repetition of the
familiar north to south “strategy of staggered expansion of control,”
refined by two years’ experience and made more effective by steady
improvements in the GNA’s command, staff, logistical, and combat
systems. Before each operation, Greek security forces conducted mass
arrests, depopulating entire areas and taking “the most strong measures
against the suspect inhabitants of neighboring villages” who might be
aiding the guerrillas. After sealing the targeted area in depth to prevent
guerrilla exfiltration, government troops conducted sweeps and smallunit patrols to attack, harass, and pursue the guerrillas, operating at
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
night and in adverse weather more than ever before. The encirclement
operations of 1949 also tended to be more systematic than those of
earlier years, as the military took the time to comb suspect areas repeatedly rather than simply making a cursory sweep. Special commando
units, designed by the British and outfitted by the Americans, often
spearheaded these operations, blending elite morale, high firepower,
and expertise in small-unit tactics into a potent strike force. Once an
area had been cleared of guerrillas, the government resettled the evacuees in selected towns secured by barbed wire, fortifications, and Home
Guards, allowing the people to visit their fields during the day before
returning to the safety of the protected villages at night. As the situation
stabilized, the government opened additional defended villages, gradually resettling the population in a way that extended its control over
the countryside. After clearing most of southern and central Greece in
this fashion, the government then assaulted the Communists’ fortified
northern bastions, crushing them in a well-orchestrated drive backed
by tanks, artillery, and aircraft that sent the guerrillas reeling across the
border into Yugoslav internment camps. The war was over.42
Papagos and Van Fleet had not achieved a miracle. Even in this
last campaign, many of the GNA’s old problems persisted, leading
JUSMAPG to conclude that the performance of Greek divisions was
still “below the standards expected of infantry troops.” Greek soldiers
were still too reliant on air and artillery support for American taste,
while field advisers complained that Greek commanders still ignored
their advice. In evaluating its success, the advisory group freely
acknowledged that Yugoslavia’s termination of support for the Greek
Communists, the guerrillas’ tendency to rely on coercion rather than
developing stronger ties with the people, and Zachariades’ adoption of
larger formations and static defenses contributed significantly to the
government’s victory. Nevertheless, the Greek armed forces still had to
win the war. Thanks to American assistance and Papagos’ leadership,
the Greeks had improved sufficiently to get the job done.43
Apart from combat operations, Greek, U.S., and British observers all attributed the government’s success to the use of mass arrests,
population removal, and village security measures that severed the
Communists’ hold over the rural population.44 On the other hand, progressive reforms and benevolent measures designed to win popular
favor played only a supporting role. True, American aid resulted in a
wide variety of road, harbor, housing, health, agricultural, and industrial improvements, yet these were modest at best. Nine years of war
and revolution had left Greece in such a shambles that by 1950 $2 billion worth of American and other foreign aid had barely restored the
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Greek soldiers assault a guerrilla bunker.
Greek economy to its pallid 1939 level. Because of the drain caused
by the insurgency and the huge refugee problem, few of the economic
goals envisioned by U.S. planners in 1947 had been achieved by 1949.
American support for civil affairs, refugee relief, and resettlement
programs ameliorated much human suffering and possibly won some
converts, but such programs were little more than a band-aid for the
wounds of a war torn land. Likewise, while the United States was able
to impose certain economic and financial programs, the Greek government ignored or subverted many American prescriptions for social,
economic, and political reforms. By war’s end, the Greek political system had not become significantly more democratic, its economic and
tax systems were no less regressive, and its record on human rights was
no more exemplary than when the insurgency had started. American
wishes notwithstanding, Greece had defeated the insurgency without
enacting the full panoply of reforms that the Truman administration had
believed necessary to slay the Communist dragon.45
The Philippine Insurgency, 1945–1955
China and Greece were not the only countries in the 1940s where
war and occupation aggravated prewar conditions to create an environment ripe for internal disorder. A similar case existed in the Philippines,
where a prewar peasant movement that sought to redress a variety
of oppressive socioeconomic conditions joined forces with a largely
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
urban-based Communist Party and other groups to form a united
front against Japanese occupation during World War II. As in Greece,
the Communist-led front organized guerrillas—called Huks—and a
clandestine, village-based support organization—the Barrio United
Defense Corps—that mobilized the rural population and provided the
guerrillas with food, shelter, recruits, and intelligence. During the war
the Huks fought not only the Japanese and their collaborationist allies,
but American-led non-Communist guerrillas as well.46 (Map 4)
The liberation of the Philippines in 1945 brought no relief for the
peasants. Economic conditions were abysmal and exploitation by the
land-holding class continued unabated. Meanwhile, the new President
of the Philippines, Manuel Roxas, not only refused to seat members
of the Huk-supported Democratic Alliance who had been elected to
congress, but declared war against the Huks. Between 1946 and 1950,
President Roxas and his successor, Elpidio Quirino, carried out an illconceived and ineffectual campaign that stumbled clumsily between
repression and unfulfilled pledges to redress peasant grievances.
Insisting that the suppression of the “bandits” was a police rather
than a military problem, Philippine officials turned the campaign
over to the Ministry of Interior’s security forces—the Military Police
Command and its successor, the Philippine Constabulary. Backing the
Constabulary were a large number of civilian guards—private armies
raised by landowners to protect their property from peasant unrest.
These paramilitary forces were undisciplined, poorly paid, and manned
largely by Axis collaborators and former pro-American guerrillas who
had scores to settle with the Huks. The Constabulary and guards not
only acted ruthlessly against the guerrillas and their civilian supporters,
but also abused the very people they were supposed to be protecting.
The government’s forces were also poorly trained and scattered in so
many small outposts that they were unable to take effective, coordinated offensive action. Consequently, they confined their activities to
conducting road patrols, manning checkpoints, and guarding towns and
private estates. Major sweep operations, when they occurred, rarely
lasted more than three days and were usually ineffective.47
The Constabulary based its counterinsurgency techniques on
Japanese methods. This was natural, since many of its members had
either employed or experienced Japanese counterguerrilla tactics during the occupation. Government zona operations—cordon-and-sweep
actions—were modeled after Japanese tactics, as were other elements
of the campaign, including the establishment of pao chia–style neighborhood watch organizations, which the Japanese had copied from
Chinese Nationalists. Government security forces took hostages and
Area of Guerrilla Strength
Map 4
l u
i p
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
used Japanese interrogation techniques that included torture, terror, and
the “magic eye,” in which villagers were brought before a concealed
informer who would identify Huk supporters. The government also
emulated Japanese destruction operations that denied food to guerrillas and punished barrios suspected of harboring irregulars. During the
insurgency the Constabulary reportedly looted and burned more villages than the Japanese, creating a large refugee population in the process. This method stripped Huk-dominated areas of the people whom
the guerrillas relied on for support, but it also placed heavy drains on
the country’s already ravaged economy.48
Although the Huks also employed terror and intimidation, their
excesses paled in comparison with the behavior of government security
forces. The harshness of Constabulary techniques and their similarity
to methods so recently employed by the Japanese naturally discredited
the government in the eyes of the people and drove many into the Huk
camp. The failure of the Roxas and Quirino regimes to follow through
on pledges of reform, coupled with the government’s blatant manipulation of the 1946 and 1948 elections, merely reinforced in many
people’s minds the belief that their grievances could only be redressed
by force.49
Organized in squadrons of 100 men and trained using U.S. Army
infantry manuals, the Huks posed as innocent peasants by day only to
emerge at night to raid barrios, attack police posts, and ambush security
forces before retreating to jungle and mountain base camps to rest and
refit. Though poorly armed and equipped, by 1950 the Huks under the
inspired leadership of Maj. Gen. Luis M. Taruc had grown to approximately 15,000 guerrillas, 100,000 Barrio United Defense Corps members, and 1 million sympathizers, asserting virtual control over a fourprovince area in central Luzon. Encouraged by recent events in China,
Taruc began to seize larger towns in preparation for what he hoped
would be the final phase of the insurgency, issuing to his subordinates
the same list of Maoist combat principles used by Greek guerrillas.50
By 1950 the Philippine government’s position was sufficiently
precarious to persuade the United States to play a more active role in
suppressing the insurgency. True to its philosophy, the Truman administration considered the Huk situation to be a political problem that
could only be resolved by instituting political, social, and economic
reforms that eliminated the underlying causes of unrest. Mindful of the
reasons for Chiang Kai-shek’s recent defeat, U.S. embassy personnel
were particularly critical of the Constabulary’s poor behavior, believing that it undermined the “political-military campaign for the minds
and loyalties of Filipinos.” Considering the Filipinos to be “precocious
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
children” who had absorbed only “superficial aspects” of Western culture and American-style democracy, the embassy endeavored through a
combination of “continuously applied pressure” and “firm patience and
understanding” to alternately entice and cajole the Quirino regime into
making the necessary reforms. Chief among these were the need for
fair and honest elections to restore confidence in the political process,
financial and tax reform, minimum wage legislation, economic growth,
and a variety of agrarian reforms designed to ease the crushing burdens
born by tenant farmers.51
Economic and political reforms, however, were only part of the
Truman administration’s prescription. Although policy makers differed
as to the relative importance of political and military measures, by
late 1950 a consensus had emerged within the administration that the
military situation had to be stabilized before political and economic
measures could take root. Consequently, while the vast majority of the
$1.3 billion worth of aid the United States would give to the Philippines
between 1946 and 1956 was economic in nature, the U.S. government
stepped up its aid program after 1950, providing $117 million in military assistance between 1951–1956, a sum that represented nearly 40
percent of Philippine military expenditures.52
The United States had opened a small Joint U.S. Military Advisory
Group (JUSMAG) in Manila in 1947, but as elsewhere President
Truman initially limited the group to providing logistical assistance and
broad organizational advice. American advisers, nearly all of whom
were U.S. Army personnel, were prohibited from visiting Philippine
military units and bases and had very little firsthand information on
the country’s deteriorating internal situation. Washington did not grant
JUSMAG chief Maj. Gen. Leland S. Hobbs greater latitude in providing advice on the insurgency until 1950.53
Hobbs’ recommendations were similar to the advice Livesay and
Van Fleet had been giving the Greeks, and indeed JUSMAG consciously emulated certain aspects of the recently successful Greek
campaign.54 Like his counterparts in Greece, Hobbs believed that
inspirational leadership was needed to shake the Philippine security
forces from their lethargy. He urged the government to consolidate
its far-flung security detachments into larger units capable of taking offensive action. He also counseled the Philippine government to
streamline its security apparatus, realigning the Constabulary under the
Department of National Defense to effect better coordination, returning
the Constabulary to more traditional police functions, and transferring
excess Constabulary men to the army. Once these steps had been taken,
the advisory group proposed a combination of cordon-and-sweep
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
operations, active patrolling, night movements, and relentless pursuit
to keep the guerrillas off-balance and drive them away from populated
areas. It also wanted to wean the Filipinos from their overreliance on
indiscriminate firepower, which it believed was not an effective substitute for closing with the enemy.55
While aggressive, offensive action represented the American prescription for eliminating the Huks as a military force, Hobbs recognized
that the government would have to protect the people if it was going to
succeed in obtaining their assistance. He therefore recommended that
the Philippine Army reduce military-civilian friction by improving troop
discipline. He also proposed that it create fortified villages manned by
policemen, both to free the Army from static defense duty and to cut the
guerrillas’ access to the population. Increased funding and coordination
of intelligence programs, an invigorated public information and propaganda campaign, new initiatives to restrict the availability of weapons
to the guerrillas, and the establishment of an office specifically charged
with the task of destroying the Communist’s underground organization
were also part of Hobbs’ pacification program.56
Although JUSMAG strove to improve troop conduct and was leery
about relying on paramilitary groups that might become instruments
of repression, Hobbs urged the Philippine government to drop certain
peacetime restraints that hindered its ability to root out the Huk underground. Specifically, Hobbs recommended that the government outlaw
the Communist Party, establish special courts to try dissidents rapidly,
and suspend habeas corpus for suspected insurgents. The suspension
of habeas corpus was especially important to Hobbs, not only to
strike more effectively at the Communists’ covert infrastructure, but to
improve troop conduct as well. Philippine law required that all prisoners either be released or charged with a crime within twenty-four hours
of being apprehended, with bail being offered to anyone not charged
with murder. This created a revolving door through which suspected
guerrillas and their civilian supporters quickly regained their freedom
and resumed their past behaviors. As had been the case with Union
soldiers during the American Civil War, Filipino security forces found
such leniency particularly frustrating and, like their American predecessors, soon took matters into their own hands by adopting policies of “no
quarter.” By suspending habeas corpus in cases related to insurgency,
the government could improve both its counterinfrastructure capability
and the treatment of prisoners, an important step in persuading Huks
to surrender. Programs to rehabilitate former Huks, possibly to include
the creation of agricultural colonies, were also part of Hobbs’ plan to
encourage defections and weaken the appeal of Huk propaganda.57
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Unlike China and Greece, which already had extensive military
establishments prior to American involvement, the Philippine Army
had only two combat-capable infantry battalions in 1950. This force
was clearly inadequate, and JUSMAG pushed for the rapid expansion
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into twenty-six battalion
combat teams. As designed by the advisory group, each team was a
mobile, combined arms force capable of aggressive, independent action
in the country’s varied and often rugged terrain.58
In restructuring the Filipino military, Hobbs and his subordinates
were mindful of the special circumstances governing the conflict. Not
only was the battalion combat team not a carbon copy of an American
formation, but JUSMAG firmly resisted suggestions that the Philippine
Army be organized into divisions, noting that it had tailored the armed
forces for internal security duties and that the military situation did
not warrant a larger, more conventional structure. The advisory group
similarly resisted proposals to introduce U.S. combat troops into
the Philippines or to assign Americans either to advise or command
Filipino units in the field, not only because it felt the military situation
did not warrant these measures, but because it believed such actions
would Americanize the war, wound Filipino pride, and rob the armed
forces of the very sense of initiative and self-responsibility the advisory
group was trying to promote.59
Although the Philippine government reorganized its armed forces
in accordance with JUSMAG proposals, Hobbs was only marginally successful in convincing Quirino to adopt his recommendations.
Then, in the fall of 1950, things began to change. The expansion of
the Huk insurgency, together with Mao’s victory in China and the
growth of Communist movements in Korea, Malaya, and Indochina
created a sense of urgency. So too did the issuance of a report by a
special Economic Survey Mission, which outlined the seriousness of
the Philippines’ situation and called for major reforms as a prerequisite
for additional U.S. aid. Caught between the rising Huk tide and Truman
administration threats to withhold further assistance unless America’s
demands were met, Quirino pledged to enact many elements of the
American reform package.
Over the next three years Quirino instituted some significant
reforms. He lowered agricultural rents, inaugurated an anti-usury drive,
and passed a new minimum wage law. He also acceded to American
pressure to hold honest elections, an act that eventually cost him the
presidency but which restored public faith in the democratic process,
thereby dampening revolutionary sentiments. But perhaps most importantly, in September 1950 President Quirino acquiesced to American
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Filipino soldiers of the 7th Battalion Combat Team search
for Huk guerrillas.
suggestions that he appoint senator and former World War II guerrilla
Ramon Magsaysay as secretary of national defense.
No one played a more central role in defeating the Huks than
Ramon Magsaysay. Not only was he a dynamic leader, but, unlike his
predecessors, he energetically instituted many of JUSMAG’s proposals, thanks in part to his close relationship with the chief of JUSMAG’s
newly established intelligence and unconventional warfare section, Air
Force Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale. Magsaysay recognized that the
best way to attack the insurgents was through a well-coordinated political and military campaign, what he termed the left hand of friendship
and the right hand of force. To strengthen his right hand, Magsaysay
realigned the national command and intelligence systems along the
lines developed by the advisory group, expanded the army, and created an elite Scout Ranger force patterned on Philippine and American
precedents that effectively conducted many long-range reconnaissance,
intelligence, and raiding missions, often in the guise of Huks.60 With
Lansdale’s help, he developed a significant propaganda apparatus, the
two men taking great delight in dreaming up new tricks with which to
outmaneuver the Huks. He demanded honest, aggressive leadership,
energizing the officer corps through surprise personal inspections, spot
promotions, and disciplinary actions in which he sacked over 400 officers. Despite his off-quoted quip to his American-trained officers that
they should forget everything they had learned at West Point and Fort
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Benning, Georgia, he not only sent hundreds of officers to the United
States for training, but made U.S. Army manuals and training materials
the basis for the Philippine Army’s tactical, intelligence, psychological
warfare, and logistics doctrines. American-designed training programs
that stressed conventional small-unit patrol and combat tactics, night
operations, and offensive action formed the core of military training
under Magsaysay. Inspection visits by JUSMAG personnel, as well as
the eventual placement of U.S. advisers at AFP regional headquarters,
helped ensure that the new programs and doctrines were properly
implemented, and although the Philippine advisory group never became
involved to the same degree as the Greek advisory group in advising
combat units in the field, it drafted tactical guidelines and operational
blueprints. In fact, American doctrines required only minor modifications to fit Philippine conditions, and, while the Filipinos demonstrated
ingenuity in making such adaptations, they did not develop any new
tactics during the course of the war.61
Although Magsaysay would have liked to abolish many of the private security forces whose undisciplined conduct undermined pacification, he realized that he could not secure the countryside without them.
Consequently, he sought to improve their performance by attaching
military personnel to them and giving them radios with which to coordinate their actions with the army. He supplemented the private armies
by raising an additional 10,000 civilian commandos, trained and led by
AFP regulars, who guarded barrios, gathered intelligence, apprehended
members of the Huk underground, and provided guides and auxiliaries
to the army. The irregulars freed the Philippine Army for offensive
operations, consolidated the army’s successes in the field, and kept the
population separated from the guerrillas. As such, they played a vital
role in the government’s pacification campaign, though they continued
to commit excesses.62
While Magsaysay wielded the stick of “all-out force” in his right
hand, he held out with his left the carrot of “all-out friendship.” Under
the label of “civic action,” a term coined by Lansdale, Magsaysay set the
armed forces to doing many of the same things the U.S. Army had done
fifty years before during the Philippine War of 1899–1902, building over
4,000 schools, repairing roads and bridges, digging wells, distributing
food and medical supplies, and performing other public works. Troops
carried “candy for kids,” military lawyers represented indigent farmers
in court, and Filipino and U.S. soldiers observed polling places to ensure
fair elections. Magsaysay ameliorated the treatment of prisoners and
improved troop discipline by promptly investigating citizen complaints
and instituting an American-financed pay raise that helped reduce for63
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
aging and corruption. To ensure that these initiatives were being implemented, Magsaysay centralized control over the “attraction program”
and propaganda campaigns by creating a civil affairs office within the
Department of National Defense, placing what would normally have
been civilian programs under military management, and installing about
a hundred officers in civil posts to energize the lethargic bureaucracy.63
Perhaps the most notable of the AFP’s civic actions was the establishment of the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR). The development corps had its genesis in an August 1950 JUSMAG proposal to
establish a rehabilitation colony for captured Huks. Magsaysay built
on this idea, creating several remote jungle camps where former Huks,
leavened by a cadre of reliable veterans, were given land on which to
start a new life. The Army assisted by clearing the land, building roads
and community facilities, and providing medical care, tools, credit, and
advice. The program had tremendous public relations value. It stole
the thunder from the Huks’ slogan “land for the landless,” encouraged
Huk defections, and seemed to demonstrate the government’s commitment to meaningful land reform. Once Magsaysay became president in
1953, he created a number of other agricultural reform and resettlement
initiatives, further cementing the image of progress among foreign and
domestic observers alike.64
Magsaysay’s combined politico-military offensive won praise from
U.S. Army observers who noted with some relief that the Filipinos had
finally realized “that the key to success in dealing with the Huks is the stopping of their support from the population.” By 1952 Filipino-American
initiatives had clearly wrested the initiative away from the Huks. Cordonand-sweep operations broke up guerrilla formations and drove them away
from populated areas, while intelligence agents, police, and paramilitary
forces controlled the population and attacked the Communist infrastructure. Protected from guerrilla retaliation, encouraged by government
successes, and swayed by the government’s propaganda and civic action
initiatives, an increasing number of people cashed-in on rewards by providing information about the Huks to the government. The year following
Magsaysay’s election as president, General Taruc surrendered. By 1955
fewer than 1,000 Huks remained under arms, living in remote mountain
areas more as fugitives than as guerrillas.65
The Philippines succeeded in suppressing the Huks by following America’s formula of implementing military measures “hand in
hand” with political reforms. Achieving this “judicious combination”
had required a significant amount of U.S. intervention—goading the
Filipinos into action, designing initiatives, and financing revitalization
programs. Thanks in large measure to Magsaysay, the Filipinos rose to
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
the challenge and applied ingenuity and determination to crafting policies along the lines advocated by U.S. representatives.66
Yet the government’s success should not overshadow significant
deficiencies in the counterinsurgency effort. Terror and misconduct
had continued, albeit on a lesser scale. Nor had the AFP’s professional
competence improved overnight. In 1951 JUSMAG bemoaned the fact
that the Philippine military was still too widely dispersed in passive
deployments, still poorly trained, and still insufficiently attuned to the
necessity of unearthing the Huk underground. A year later Filipino performance had improved markedly, yet the advisory group complained
that the Philippine armed forces still exhibited a reluctance to come to
grips with the enemy. Moreover, after the army had succeeded in breaking up Huk concentrations, both it and JUSMAG had clung to using
large encirclement operations once their utility had passed, shifting
only belatedly to a strategy of saturation patrolling to meet the changed
circumstances of the campaign.67
Shortcomings on the military side of the campaign paled, however, in
comparison with those on the civil side. Despite making some changes in
the nation’s fiscal and economic structure in response to American prodding, most of the government’s socioeconomic reforms proved cosmetic
and superficial. The AFP’s civic action program was not fully implemented until after the military had turned the tide against the guerrillas,
and it barely began to satisfy the tremendous socioeconomic problems
in the countryside. Despite some modest initiatives to help the farmer,
meaningful land reform had been “for all practical purposes a dead letter” during the Quirino regime. Under the Quirino administration the
plight of many small, independent farmers actually worsened rather than
improved. Between 1948 and 1952 the percentage of Filipino farmers
who did not own land increased from 37 percent to 46 percent. EDCOR,
Magsaysay’s much touted resettlement program, proved to be more of
a propaganda tool than a meaningful experiment in Huk rehabilitation
and land reform. By 1954 the government had resettled only 246 former
guerrillas in development corps communities. By September 1959 this
number had fallen to 221, a mere 21 percent of 1,046 settlers then living
in EDCOR projects. When one considers that the total number of people
(both Huk and non-Huk settlers and their families) living in EDCOR
settlements in 1959 totaled only 5,709 people in a nation of over 19 million, the propagandistic nature of the development corps becomes clear.
Other reform measures initiated by Magsaysay during his presidency
(1953–1957), while well intentioned, also failed to make a dent in the
nation’s rural problems, and by 1963, 70 percent of Filipino farmers were
landless tenants.68
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
As in Greece, the United States had lacked the leverage to compel
the Filipinos to enact deeper socioeconomic reforms, with the result that
the hand of force, rather than the hand of friendship, had played the predominate role in defeating the Huks. Hard measures—including arrest
without trial, destruction of food and shelter in guerrilla-controlled
areas, hostage taking, reprisals, and the occasional forcible relocation
of civilian populations—had all been integral to the government’s campaign. Civic and psychological actions, while important, had ultimately
played an ancillary role to the military effort. Ironically, many Filipinos
and Americans became so caught up in their own propaganda about
EDCOR, candy for kids, and other unconventional programs and tricks
that they lost sight of the fact that most Huks surrendered because they
tired of living on the run from the government’s increasingly effective
security forces. Unconventional techniques notwithstanding, Philippine
and American counterinsurgents had been able to break the back of the
Huk rebellion by intelligently adapting the age-old American dictum of
“Find ’em, Fight ’em, Finish ’em” to Philippine conditions.69
The Indochina War, 1945–1954
In contrast to Greece and the Philippines, where U.S. advisers
played a significant part in orchestrating successful counterinsurgency campaigns, the United States assumed a less direct—and ultimately unsuccessful—role in a fourth major conflict of the period,
the Indochina War. A French colony, Indochina had been occupied by
Japan during World War II. French defeats in Europe and Asia during
that war greatly weakened French prestige and fueled proindependence
sentiments throughout Indochina. When Allied forces arrived to take
control of Indochina from the Japanese in the fall of 1945, they found
that much of the region’s three political entities—Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia—were already under the control of nationalist groups. This
was particularly true in the northern reaches of Vietnam, where Ho
Chi Minh’s Communist-dominated Viet Minh organization was quite
strong. After a year of political and military sparring, a full-blown
war erupted between the Viet Minh and the French in December 1946.
(Map 5)
In trying to reassert its authority over Indochina, France employed
several traditional colonial military techniques, including raids, encirclements, and tache d’huile (“oil spot”) operations. None of these
methods succeeded, as the French attempted to reclaim too quickly far
more territory than their meager expeditionary force could effectively
control. Moreover, the French seriously underestimated both the depth
Lao Cai
Lang Son
Dien Bien Phu
M ekong R
De Lattre Line
Luang Prabang
Dong Hoi
Udon Thani
Da Nang
Nakhon Ratchasima
Qui Nhon
Tonle Sap
Loc Ninh
Da Lat
Phu Quoc
Can Tho
Map 5
Con Son
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
of nationalist sentiment among the Vietnamese people and the ability of
the Viet Minh to harness that sentiment. Using Maoist methods, Ho Chi
Minh effectively mobilized large segments of the Vietnamese people
in support of a war of national liberation. Under increasing pressure
from both the Viet Minh and world opinion, France grudgingly granted
a veneer of autonomy to the associated states of Laos, Cambodia, and
Vietnam while still preserving its colonial administration—a political
half measure that failed to defuse the independence movement.70
France’s position in Indochina was rather bleak when, in June 1950,
the first shipment of American military aid arrived. Despite its general
opposition to colonialism, the United States government had decided
that it could not permit Indochina to fall under the ever-lengthening
shadow of international communism. Growing Cold War tensions and
the necessity of winning French help in creating an effective counterweight to the Soviet bloc in Europe heavily influenced the decision, as
did the recent Communist takeover of neighboring China.71
The aid arrived none too soon. Following his 1949 victory in
China, Mao Tse-tung had begun sending truckloads of arms, ammunition, and advisers into Indochina to succor his Vietnamese comrades.
With this assistance, Ho and his chief military commander, General
Vo Nguyen Giap, had begun to transform the Viet Minh’s ragtag guerrilla bands into quasi-conventional 10,000-man divisions. By 1950
Giap had five such divisions at his disposal in northern Vietnam and
was ready to launch the third and final phase of Vietnam’s Maoiststyle revolution.72
The 1950 offensive succeeded in limiting French control in the
north to the Red River Delta, a region France attempted to secure by
constructing a heavily fortified perimeter known as the de Lattre Line
after the French commander in Indochina, General Jean de Lattre de
Tassigny. Buoyed by his success, Giap tried to take the delta by storm
the following year but suffered a bloody repulse. As had happened in
Greece just a few years before, the shift to conventional warfare had
proved premature, as Giap’s divisions were no match for the French
in positional combat. Unlike the Greek Communists, however, the
Viet Minh enjoyed the benefits of a deep reservoir of popular support, a highly developed and disciplined political infrastructure, and
an uninterrupted source of external supply. These factors enabled the
Viet Minh to weather the defeats of 1951. Recognizing that they had
acted prematurely, Ho and Giap returned to guerrilla warfare, keeping
the French off-balance while studiously avoiding set-piece confrontations. Meanwhile, Giap carefully nurtured his regulars back to health
in the safety of his northern mountain redoubts. With Chinese help, he
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Franco-Vietnamese soldiers search for Viet Minh guerrillas in a
village in the Red River Delta.
continuously upgraded their training and armament, so that by 1953
many Viet Minh regular battalions were better armed than their French
Thanks in part to American assistance, French military forces in
Indochina grew in strength and capability as well, reaching 500,000
men by mid-1953. No less than 350,000 of these men, however, were
tied down guarding towns, outposts, and lines of communications, with
the de Lattre Line’s 1,200 fortifications absorbing some 100,000 soldiers. These static deployments enabled the highly mobile and elusive
Viet Minh to gain local superiority at any given point despite France’s
overall numerical advantage. The result was an enervating stalemate.
The Viet Minh dominated virtually all of northern Vietnam and much
of the rural south as well, while the French controlled the major cities and the fortified salient in the Red River Delta, although even this
supposedly secure area was heavily infiltrated by tens of thousands of
Communist guerrillas.74
In 1953 a new French commander, Lt. Gen. Henri-Eugene
Navarre, pledged to break the stalemate by reorganizing French
forces and infusing the army with a more offensive spirit. With the
help of some additional troop units from France and materiel from
the United States, Navarre planned to consolidate his forces so as to
free up a significant strategic reserve capable of taking the war to the
enemy. While elite parachute units, Vietnamese light infantry, and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
tribal irregulars kept the enemy off-balance through raids and guerrilla-style actions, Navarre proposed to invigorate France’s heretofore
halfhearted efforts at creating a large Vietnamese National Army
whose troops could assume most of the responsibility for pacification
and static security missions. This would then allow him to consolidate
his veteran French formations—which were not organized into anything larger than regiment-size units—into regular divisions capable
of conducting sustained, large-scale operations against the enemy’s
main forces and bases.
The Navarre plan won the approval of both the French and
American governments, with the newly installed Eisenhower administration pledging $385 million in additional aid to help implement
it. The results, however, were disappointing. The divisions were never
formed, the expansion of the Vietnamese National Army proceeded
slowly, and the vast majority of French troops remained tied down
in static positions. Navarre did initiate greater offensive activity, but
his operations were often of questionable military value and had the
effect of dispersing his painfully accumulated reserves to little effect.
Though he inflicted some damage on his adversaries, all too often the
nimble guerrillas managed to elude his nets, fighting when it served
their purpose, avoiding the French when it did not. Then, in the winter
of 1953–1954, Navarre made the mistake of committing approximately
17,000 of his best troops to a remote outpost called Dien Bien Phu in
northwestern Vietnam.75
Navarre intended that the deployment to Dien Bien Phu would
thwart a possible Viet Minh invasion of Laos. He also thought that
the isolated outpost would prove an irresistible lure to the one or two
Communist divisions he believed were operating in the area and which
he hoped would eviscerate themselves on the garrison’s defenses.
It proved a serious miscalculation. Rather than facing one or two
divisions armed with a few dozen artillery pieces, the defenders of
Dien Bien Phu were soon surrounded by five Viet Minh divisions
equipped with several hundred artillery pieces and rocket launchers.
Outnumbered and outgunned, the French received another shock when
a ring of Communist antiaircraft guns made aerial resupply of the
besieged outpost problematic. Chinese aid had truly transformed the
Viet Minh into a potent, quasi-conventional battle force, and in May
1954 the beleaguered garrison capitulated.76
Giap followed up his stunning victory with a ten-division offensive
that compelled the French to abandon a large segment of the Red River
Delta. Reeling from these defeats, a weary French government hastened to the peace table. In June an international conference at Geneva
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Franco-Vietnamese soldiers parachute into Dien Bien Phu.
granted full independence to Laos, Cambodia, and a divided Vietnam.
The Geneva conferees placed all of Vietnam north of the 17th Parallel
under Communist control, while everything south of that line was to
be administered by an indigenous non-Communist regime backed by
the French. Although the convention called for the eventual reunification of Vietnam through general elections, the government of South
Vietnam refused to sign the accords. In actuality, both the North and the
South were committed to the destruction of the other and the eventual
reunification of the entire country under their respective auspices by
any means possible, a situation that would ultimately lead to twenty
more years of bloody civil war.77
The United States Army played virtually no role in shaping the
strategies, tactics, and doctrines employed by France in Indochina.
A proud people with a rich heritage of colonial warfare, the French
neither sought nor accepted U.S. advice on the conduct of the war.
Like so many other American aid missions of the period, the military
assistance organization in Indochina was devoted entirely to administrative and logistical functions. Its personnel neither advised the French
on military operations nor accompanied them in the field. The French
tightly restricted the information they gave to the aid mission and rarely
revealed their operational plans to their allies. They also barred U.S.
military personnel from having any direct contact with the Vietnamese
National Army. Thus the French consulted U.S. officers neither about
the construction of the de Lattre Line nor the deployment to Dien Bien
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Phu, and they did not provide the Army with the operational details of
the Navarre plan.78
Though U.S. soldiers had virtually no influence over the conduct of the war, they were not without their opinions on the conflict.
Throughout the war, senior U.S. officers, including Army Chief of
Staff General J. Lawton Collins, had repeatedly warned that American
military aid would not be effective in suppressing the insurgency unless
that aid was carefully integrated into an overall program of political and
economic reforms, including meaningful independence for the people
of Indochina. Without such reforms France would not be able to win
much support among the Vietnamese people, and without such support
the French would never be able to gather the intelligence they needed
to successfully root out the shadowy Viet Minh organization. U.S. soldiers also argued, as they had in China, Greece, and the Philippines,
that the key to victory lay in continuous, aggressive infantry action.
They sharply criticized France for adopting an overly passive, static
defensive posture that ceded the moral and military initiative to the
Viet Minh. They suggested that the French were too road-bound in
their movements and conventional in their thinking and believed that
they needed to adjust their organizations and tactics more completely
to the realities of Asian guerrilla warfare. U.S. soldiers recommended
that France expand its unconventional warfare capabilities and form
more effective Vietnamese military institutions, including an army
capable of independent operations, light infantry battalions for pacification support, and a village-based militia that could both protect the
population from Communist intimidation and free the regular forces for
offensive action. Finally, the Americans pressed the French to mimic
the Viet Minh by consolidating their disparate, ad hoc formations into
regular combat divisions that would have the administrative and logistical wherewithal to undertake sustained offensive operations against
enemy main force units and bases. While these formations dislodged
the Communists from their redoubts, small units of raiders could harass
the Communists using guerrilla tactics while indigenous auxiliaries,
backed by intelligence and psychological warfare units, secured and
pacified the countryside from the baleful influence of the Viet Minh
infrastructure. These concepts mirrored similar sentiments expressed
by U.S. military advisers in China, Greece, and the Philippines, and
indeed, one American plan for the pacification of Indochina was specifically based on the strategy of progressive area clearance employed
by Van Fleet during the recently concluded Greek Civil War.79
France did in fact attempt at one time or another to implement
many of the suggestions advocated in the American program but
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
never to the satisfaction of U.S. military observers. Civilian analysts
were similarly critical of France’s performance. Like their uniformed
colleagues, U.S. diplomats were forever pressing France to adopt
more meaningful political and economic concessions in Indochina.
The United States even supplemented its massive military aid program with a modest package of economic and technical assistance
designed to improve the lot of the Vietnamese peasant and win his
support for the anti-Communist cause. American-funded programs
promoted literacy, constructed roads and bridges, dug wells, resettled
refugees, inoculated civilians, and regrouped small villages into larger, more defensible settlements. Ultimately, however, the modest size
of these efforts, American ignorance about conditions in Indochina,
French intransigence, and Vietnamese corruption all conspired to
limit the effectiveness of such programs. Unable to influence sufficiently France’s conduct of the war and unwilling to intervene directly
in what everyone acknowledged was an extremely difficult situation,
the United States could do nothing more than watch with despair as
northern Vietnam fell into the Communist orbit. As for the newly
independent, French-backed government in southern Vietnam, years
of colonial maladministration and impolitic policies bequeathed to
that unfortunate regime a population that was generally sympathetic
to the Viet Minh. Whether the government could overcome this handicap remained to be seen.80
Beckett, Roots of Counter-Insurgency, pp. 127–36; Lomperis, People’s War to
People’s Rule, p. 138; Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. 241, 247.
For details of the Army’s peacekeeping effort in China, see Andrew Birtle, “The
Marshall Mission: A Peacekeeping Mission That Failed,” Military Review 80 (March–
April 2000): 99–103; Larry Bland, ed., George C. Marshall’s Mediation Mission to
China, December 1945–January 1947 (Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation,
1998); The Complete Records of the Mission of General George C. Marshall to China,
December 1945–January 1947 (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1987); John
Beal, Marshall in China (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970); Wesley Wilson, “The
U.S. Army’s Contribution to the Marshall Mission in China, January 1, 1946 to March
1, 1947” (Master’s thesis, University of Maryland, 1957); Marshall’s Mission to
China, December 1945–January 1947: The Report and Appended Documents, 2 vols.
(Arlington, Va.: University Publishers of America, 1976).
Quote from State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS],
1948, vol. 8, The Far East: China (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,
1973), p. 244, and see also pp. 422–23. State Department, United States Relations with
China (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 358; Final Report of
the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Republic of China, pp. 9–10, in 893.20
Mission/4–449, Records of the Department of State, Record Group (RG) 59, National
Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.
Mao, Selected Military Writings, pp. 217, 229, 302–03; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency
Era, pp. 7–11.
Mao, Selected Military Writings, pp. 210–14, 343; Pustay, Counterinsurgency
Warfare, pp. 32–38; Asprey, War in the Shadows, 1:387–91.
U.S. Relations with China, pp. xv, 339, 346, 354; FRUS, 1948, 8:243–44, 247–48;
Final Report of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Republic of China, pp.
4–5; Memo, Maj Gen John P. Lucas, Ch, Army Advisory Group, China, 2 Sep 47, in
091 China, 1946–48, Plans and Operations Division (P&O), Records of the Army Staff,
RG 319, NARA.
The proposal to create an American planning group was based on the recent establishment of such an entity in Greece. Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall, Army
Chief of Staff General Omar N. Bradley, and former Army chief and then Secretary of
State George C. Marshall all opposed the idea lest such an action further enmesh the
United States in the Chinese imbroglio. U.S. Relations with China, p. 324; FRUS, 1948,
8:91–96, 244–47; FRUS, 1947, vol. 7, The Far East: China, pp. 754, 877.
Quote from FRUS, 1947, 7:392. U.S. Relations with China, pp. 136, 176, 316,
336–37; Msg, Army Advisory Group to War Department (WD), 10 Oct 47, box 3,
General files, Entry (E) 90, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Republic of China, RG
334, NARA.
First quote from U.S. Relations with China, p. 810, and see also pp. 131, 174,
211–13. Second quote from ibid., pp. 758–59. Third quote from ibid., pp. 257–58.
FRUS, 1947, 7:389, 754–55, 764–814; Albert Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (New
York: Henry Holt, 1958), pp. 394–95; Edward Cray, General of the Army: George C.
Marshall, Soldier and Statesman (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990), p. 634; Ltr, Barr
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
to Stuart, 5 Jun 48, box 4, General files, E 90, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group,
Republic of China, RG 334, NARA.
U.S. Relations with China, pp. 759–60.
Ibid., p. 336; FRUS, 1947, 7:393, 922; FRUS, 1948, 8:248–49, 498.
Ltr, Barr to Stuart, 5 Jun 48; Outline of Two-Year Strategic Plan for the Ministry
of National Defense, 21 Jul 48, box 4, General files, E 90, Joint U.S. Military Advisory
Group, Republic of China, RG 334, NARA; FRUS, 1948, 8:422–23.
First quote from Beckett, Roots of Counter-Insurgency, p. 133. Second quote
from Wilson, “The U.S. Army’s Contribution to the Marshall Mission,” p. 83. Third
quote from Manual for Bandit Suppression, Sep 45, p. 7, atch to Rpt, Asst Mil Attache,
Peiping, China, 23 Jan 47, sub: Handbook for Suppressing Bandits, 339026, Intelligence
Document (ID) file, G–2, RG 319, NARA. Mao, Selected Military Writings, p. 410.
First and second quotes from Rpt, Asst Naval Attache, Peiping, China, 26 Aug 48,
sub: China—Army and Related Organizations, p. 3, 0493142. Fourth quote from ibid.,
p. 4. Third quote from Rpt, Mil Attache, Nanking, 29 Jun 48, sub: Strategy and Tactics
of North China Bandit Suppression HQ, 475708; Rpt, Mil Attache, Nanking, 3 Jun 48,
sub: Fu Tso-yi’s Principles of Communist Suppression, 471145. All in ID, G–2, RG
319, NARA.
FRUS, 1947, 7:659–60; FRUS, 1948, 8:132–34; U.S. Relations with China, pp.
x–xii, 252, 281, 352–53, 380–84, 389–94, 770.
Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency
Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 167–72; Hugh Gardner,
Guerrilla and Counterguerrilla Warfare in Greece, 1941–1945, Office of the Chief of
Military History, 1962, p. 9, CMH; Thomas Greene, ed., The Guerrilla, and How To
Fight Him (Washington, D.C.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), p. 67.
Greene, The Guerrilla, pp. 69–70, 78–79; Edward Wainhouse, “Guerrilla War in
Greece,” Military Review 37 (June 1957): 20–22; Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 22 Mar 49,
sub: Organization of the Bandit Forces and Tactics Employed, Historians files, CMH.
Compare Mao’s ten principles as related by Otto Heilbrunn, Partisan Warfare (New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), pp. 168–69, with instructions issued by the National
Popular Liberation Army during World War II as described by Frank Lillyman, Guerrilla
Warfare in Greece (Student paper, Infantry Officer Advanced Course [IOAC], Infantry
School, Fort Benning, Ga., 1952–53), pp. 11–12, and by the Democratic People’s Army
as found in Greek General Staff, Special Intelligence Pamphlet, Bandit Methods, Mar
49, Incl to Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 23 May 49, sub: Guerrilla Tactical Methods,
Historians files, CMH.
“The Greek Guerrillas—How They Operate,” Intelligence Review 156 (March
1949): 33.
Edgar O’Ballance, The Greek Civil War, 1944–1949 (Washington, D.C.: Frederick
A. Praeger, 1966), p. 129; Greene, The Guerrilla, p. 76; William Needham, Paramilitary
Forces in Greece, 1946–1949 (Student paper, Army War College [AWC], 1971), pp.
Greene, The Guerrilla, pp. 94–95; Rpt, Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning
Group, Greece (JUSMAPG), 1 Oct 48, sub: Greek Army Operations, 1948, an. A to Rpt,
JUSMAPG, 1 Oct 48, sub: Estimate of the Current Military Situation in Greece, 091
Greece, P&O, 1946–48, RG 319, NARA.
Greek General Staff, Suppression of Irregular (Bandit) Operations, n.d., Historians
files, CMH; Greek Staff College, curricular material, Precis Internal Security 3, Jan
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
47, and Anti-Bandit Warfare Supplement to Inf 2, Oct 47, both in NS–16284, CGSC
Library archives, Fort Leavenworth, Kans. Compare these materials to British concepts
presented to the Greek high command in December 1946, as found in Rpt, Mil Attache,
Greece, 2 Jan 47, sub: Anti-Bandit Operations, app. A, British Ideas on Internal Security,
925947, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
Rpt, Maj Gen S. J. Chamberlin to Chief of Staff, Army (CSA), 20 Oct 47, sub:
The Greek Situation, pt. 2, p. 3, 868.00/10–2047, RG 59, NARA; Alexander Papagos,
“Guerrilla Warfare,” Foreign Affairs 30 (January 1952): 222–24; Memo, Maj Gen S. B.
Rawlins, British Mil Mission, Greece, n.d., sub: Notes on the GNA and Its Problems
Prepared in Connection with the Visit of Commander in Chief MELF to Athens, August
1947, 091 Greece, P&O, 1946–48, RG 319, NARA.
Quotes from Robert Packenham, Liberal America and the Third World (Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973), p. 26. Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 184–86.
Even with the shift in priorities, economic assistance still accounted for 60 percent of all U.S. aid by war’s end. Quote from FRUS, 1947, vol. 5, The Near East and
Africa, p. 361. Walter Hermes, Survey of the Development of the Role of the U.S. Army
Military Advisor, OCMH Study, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1965, p. 59,
CMH; Ralph Hinrichs, “U.S. Involvement in Low Intensity Conflict Since World War
II: Three Case Studies—Greece, Dominican Republic, and Vietnam” (Master’s thesis,
CGSC, 1984), pp. 3-6 to 3-8; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 181, 184; Edwin Curtin,
“American Advisory Group Aids Greece in War of Guerrillas,” Armored Cavalry
Journal 58 (January–February 1949): 9; Ltr, Livesay to Griswold, 21 Aug 47, sub:
Increase in Strength of the Greek Army, in 091 Greece, P&O, 1946–48, RG 319, NARA;
Memo, Rawlins, n.d., sub: Notes on the GNA and Its Problems Prepared in Connection
with the Visit of Commander in Chief MELF to Athens, August 1947; Msg, Athens 176
to State, 10 Feb 48, sub: Greek Military Situation, in 868.20/2–1048, RG 59, NARA;
Ltrs, William Draper, Jr., Actg Secy of Army, to Robert Lovett, Secy of State, 24 Dec 48,
and Lovett to Royall, 13 Jan 49, both in 868.20/12–2448, RG 59, NARA; Memos, CSA
for Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Situation in Greece, App to Incl B, Report on Greece
by Combined Imperial General Staff, JCS 1704/19, 3 May 49, in 091 Greece, P&O,
1949–50, RG 319, NARA, and American Embassy, Greece, for the Secy of State, 20
Dec 48, sub: Visit to Greece of the Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall, 522347,
ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
First quote from Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 188–92. Second quote from
Estimate of the Military Situation, pp. 54–55, atch to Rpt, Chamberlin to CSA, 20 Oct
47, sub: The Greek Situation. Harold Roberts, The Organization and Functions of the
Joint U.S. Military Advisory Planning Group for Greece (JUSMAPG) (Student paper,
IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53), pp. 1–7; Monthly Historical Rpt, U.S. Army Group,
American Mission to Greece, Sep 47, U.S. Army Section Group, Adjutant General
Section History files, 1947–50, Joint U.S. Military Aid Group (JUSMAG), Greece, E
155, RG 334, NARA; William McNeill, Greece: American Aid in Action, 1947–1956
(New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1957), p. 67.
Quote from Interv with James A. Van Fleet, U.S. Army Senior Officer Debriefing
Program, U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI), Carlisle Barracks, Pa., p. 26, and
see also pp. 14, 16 (hereafter cited as Van Fleet Interv). Lawrence Wittner, American
Intervention in Greece, 1943–1949 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p.
242; Brief History, 1 January 1948 to 31 August 1949, p. 14, U.S. Army Section Group,
Adjutant General Section History files, 1947–50, JUSMAG, Greece, E 155, RG 334,
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
NARA; Robert Selton, “Communist Errors in the Anti-Bandit War,” Military Review 45
(September 1965): 75.
Van Fleet Interv, pp. 3–4, 15; Estimate of the Military Situation, p. 19, atch to Rpt,
Chamberlin to CSA, 20 Oct 47, sub: The Greek Situation.
Robert Siegrist, Victory in the Balkans (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School,
1952–53), p. 6; O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp. 173–74; Curtin, “American Advisory
Group,” p. 13; Memos, Highlight Notes, 30 Jun 49, in 314.7, JUSMAPG, Greece, RG
334, NARA, and JUSMAPG, 18 Dec 47, sub: Minutes of the Seventeenth Meeting of
the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of all Three War Ministries, in 334, JUSMAG,
Greece, E 146, RG 334, NARA; Diary, William G. Livesay, 31 Aug 47, William G.
Livesay Papers, MHI.
Quote from Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 15 Nov 47, sub: Armed Forces of Greece,
Expansion Possibilities, 929245, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA. Van Fleet Interv, pp. 3,
17, 21; Memo, Van Fleet for Grady, 31 Dec 48, sub: General Zervas’ Opinions on the
Current Military Situation, Incl to Despatch 149, Athens to State, 19 Feb 49, 535816,
ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Roberts, Organization and Functions, p. 10.
Ltrs, Brig Gen Reuben E. Jenkins, Asst Dir, JUSMAPG, to Lt Gen S. Kitrilakis,
Dep Ch, GGS (Greek General Staff), 3 Jun 49, in 322, and Col Temple G. Holland,
Comdr, JUSMAPG Det, C Corps, to Commanding General (CG), C Corps, 4 Feb
49, sub: Rifles for Civil Units, in 322; Memos, JUSMAPG, n.d., sub: Minutes of the
Meeting of the Executive Committee Held February 25, 1949, in 332, and JUSMAPG
Det, C Corps, 16 Jun 49, sub: Addendum to Monthly Report, May 1949, in 319.1. All in
JUSMAG, Greece, E 156, RG 334, NARA. McNeill, Greece, pp. 49, 132.
Quotes from Rpt, Livesay to Griswold, 24 Jun 47, sub: Requests by the GNA
and Gendarmerie for Authorization and Funds To Increase Their Military Strength
and Certain Allied Activities, in 868.20/8–147, RG 59, NARA; Livesay Diary, 19 Jun
47; Needham, Paramilitary Forces in Greece, p. 29; Memo, U.S. Army Group Greece
(USAGG), 1 Nov 47, sub: Notes of Supreme National Defense Council Meeting, Held
at 1800 Hours, 31 Oct 1947, 334, JUSMAG, Greece, E 146, RG 334, NARA; Rpt,
Chamberlin to CSA, 20 Oct 47, sub: The Greek Situation, 2:8, 10.
Memo, Highlight Notes, 30 Jun 49; Brief History, 1 January 1948 to 31 August
1949, pp. 12–13. Needham, Paramilitary Forces in Greece, pp. 29–31; Roberts,
Organization and Functions, pp. 11–12.
By 1949 refugee relief absorbed 22 percent of the Greek budget and a high percentage of American economic aid as well. O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp. 15, 136, 150,
163, 167–68; McNeill, Greece, pp. 40, 49, 131–32; “The Greek Guerrillas—How They
Operate,” p. 28; Wittner, American Intervention, pp. 137–39.
Quote from Wittner, American Intervention, p. 136, and see also pp. 138, 143,
147–49. Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 192–95; FRUS, 1947, 5:388n, 402–03.
First quote from Van Fleet Interv, p. 33, and see also pp. 26–27, 32, 34, 49–52.
Second quote from Estimate of the Military Situation, p. 3, atch to Rpt, Chamberlin
to CSA, 20 Oct 47, sub: The Greek Situation. FRUS, 1947, 5:403; O’Ballance, Greek
Civil War, pp. 150, 167–68, 179, 214; Dimitrios Kousoulas, “The Guerrilla War the
Communists Lost,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 89 (May 1963): 70; Charles
Shrader, The Withered Vine: Logistics and the Communist Insurgency in Greece, 1945–
1949 (Westport, Conn.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1999), pp. 124–27.
Memo, Highlight Notes, 30 Jun 49; JUSMAG, Greece, History, 25 March 1949
to 30 June 1950, p. 58; Monthly Historical Rpt, U.S. Army Group American Mission to
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Greece, Oct 47, p. 4; Memo, JUSMAPG, n.d., sub: Minutes of Conference Held in the
JUSMAPG Conference Room, 3 P.M., 11 Jan 49. All in JUSMAG, Greece, 1947–48,
RG 334, NARA. Speech, Livesay to Advisers, 16 Jan 48, pp. 1–4, Livesay Papers, MHI;
Memo, Van Fleet for Grady, 31 Dec 48, sub: General Zervas’ Opinions, Incl to Des
149, Athens to State, 19 Feb 49; Van Fleet Interv, p. 44; Greene, The Guerrilla, pp. 82,
88; Guenther Rothenberg, Guerrilla Warfare and Counterinsurgent Efforts in Greece,
1941–1949, in Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO), Isolating the
Guerrilla (Washington, D.C.: HERO, 1966), p. 209.
For British views, see Memo, Rawlins, British Military Mission, Greece, n.d.,
sub: Notes on the GNA and Its Problems Prepared in Connection with the Visit of
Commander in Chief MELF to Athens, August 1947; Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 5 Nov
47, sub: Army Commander’s Conference, Volos, 17–18 October 1947, 414357, ID, G–2,
RG 319, NARA.
Rpt, JUSMAPG, 1 Oct 48, sub: Estimate of the Current Military Situation in
Greece, with 2 ans.: A, Rpt, JUSMAPG, 1 Oct 48, sub: Greek Army Operations,
1948, and B, Rpt, British Military Mission, n.d., sub: Estimate of the Bandit War in
Greece and of the Steps Required To Bring It to a Successful Conclusion as Quickly
as Possible; Rpt, Van Fleet to Dir, P&O, U.S. Army General Staff, 31 Mar 48; Rpt,
JUSMAPG, 25 Mar 48, Operations Report 6, 11–19 Mar 48, pp. 9–12. All in 091
Greece, P&O, 1946–48, RG 319, NARA. Roberts, Organization and Functions, pp.
13–14; Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 15 Nov 47, sub: Armed Forces of Greece, Expansion
Possibilities; Papagos, “Guerrilla Warfare,” p. 226; O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp.
Anastase Balcos, “Guerrilla Warfare,” Military Review 38 (March 1958): 53;
Dimitrios Kousoulas, “The Crucial Point of a Counterguerrilla Campaign,” Infantry 53
(January–February 1963): 18–19. For a partial exposition of Zachariades’ philosophy,
which had Maoist tones, see Greek General Staff, Special Intelligence Pamphlet, Bandit
Methods, Mar 49, Incl to Rpt, Mil Attache, Greece, 23 May 49, sub: Guerrilla Tactical
O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp. 179, 200; Selton, “Communist Errors,” pp.
Greene, The Guerrilla, pp. 97–98; Shrader, Withered Vine, pp. 253–63.
First quote from Kousoulas, “Guerrilla War the Communists Lost,” p. 69. Second
quote from Memo, Greek General Staff for A, B Corps, et al., 9 May 49, in 091 Greece,
P&O 1949–50, RG 319, NARA. Memo, Brig Gen T. Sfetsios for GGS/A3, 9 May
49, sub: Distribution of 2,000 Rifles, in 322, JUSMAPG, Greece, RG 334, NARA;
Papagos, “Guerrilla Warfare,” pp. 228–29; Roberts, Organization and Functions, p. 15;
O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp. 156, 161.
Quote from JUSMAG, Greece, History, 25 March 1949 to 30 June 1950, p. 85, and
see also pp. 103, 108–09. Memo, Highlight Notes, 30 Jun 49; Monthly Rpts, JUSMAPG
B Corps Detachment, 1 Jun, 1 Jul, and 1 Aug 49, in 319.1, JUSMAPG, Greece, E
155, RG 334, NARA; Minutes of Conference Held 9 May 1949 Between JUSMAPG,
BMM(G), RAF Delegation, BMM(G), and BPPM, n.d., in 091 Greece, P&O, 1949–50,
RG 319, NARA.
For assessments of the war, see O’Ballance, Greek Civil War, pp. 175, 192, 210–16;
Wainhouse, “Guerrilla War in Greece,” p. 25; Kousoulas, “Crucial Point,” pp. 19–20;
E. Zacharakis, “Lessons Learned in the Anti-Guerrilla War in Greece, 1946–1949,”
General Military Review (July 1960): 186–93.
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Balcos, “Guerrilla Warfare,” pp. 53–54; Papagos, “Guerrilla Warfare,” pp. 229–30;
FRUS, 1949, 6:273; McNeill, Greece, pp. 40, 45, 50–51, 63; Lomperis, People’s War
to People’s Rule, p. 167; Packenham, Liberal America, pp. 31–32; Shafer, Deadly
Paradigms, pp. 166, 189–96, 203–04; Wittner, American Intervention, pp. 189–91.
“Huk” was shorthand for Hukbo Ng Bayan Laban Sa Hapon, which translates as
“People’s Army to Fight Against Japan.” William Moore, “The Hukbalahap Insurgency,
1948–1954: An Analysis of the Roles, Missions, and Doctrine of the Philippine Military
Forces” (Student thesis, AWC, 1971), p. 2; Asprey, War in the Shadows, 2:818; Benedict
Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1977), pp. 250–54; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 206–
11; Eduardo Lachica, The Huks: Philippine Agrarian Society in Revolt (Washington,
D.C.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1971), pp. 41–47.
Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, p. 26; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 211–12;
Kerkvliet, Huk Rebellion, p. 267; Michael McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft: U.S.
Guerrilla Warfare, Counter-insurgency, and Counter-terrorism, 1940–1990 (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1992), pp. 96–98; Dana Dillon, “Comparative Counter-Insurgency
Strategies in the Philippines,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 6 (Winter 1995): 283–84;
Richard Leighton et al., The Huk Rebellion: A Case Study in the Social Dynamics of
Insurrection (Washington, D.C.: Industrial College of the Armed Forces, 1964), pp.
Napoleon Valeriano and Charles Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations:
The Philippine Experience (Washington, D.C.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962), pp.
160–62; Alvin Scaff, The Philippine Answer to Communism (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
University Press, 1955), p. 124; McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, pp. 120–22;
Charles Bohannan, The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines: The Hukbalahap,
1942–1955, in HERO, Isolating the Guerrilla, pp. 137–38, 142; Mao, Selected Military
Writings, p. 410; Russell Volckmann, We Remained (New York: W. W. Norton, 1954),
pp. 108–09; Gene Hanrahan, Japanese Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, ORO–
T–268 (Chevy Chase, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University,
1954); Dillon, “Comparative Strategies,” pp. 283–84; Leighton, Huk Rebellion, pp.
28–29, 57–58; Lawrence Greenberg, The Hukbalahap Insurrection: A Case Study of a
Successful Anti-Insurgency Operation in the Philippines, 1944–1946 (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1987), p. 76; Kerkvliet, Huk Rebellion, pp. 160,
189–90, 195; Robert Ross Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency: Economic, Political, and
Military Factors, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1963, pp. 85–86, CMH.
Uldarico Baclagon, How We Fight the Communist (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry
School, 1956–57), p. 10; Greenberg, The Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 129; Bohannan,
“Communist Insurgency,” p. 134.
Rpts, Mil Attache, Manila, 21 Nov 51, sub: Captured Enemy Document Titled
(Military Strategy and Tactics), 858801, and HQ, Philippine Command (PhilCom)
(Air Force [AF]), and 13th AF, Ofc of the Dep for Intel, 14 May 51, sub: Hukbong
Mapagpalaya Ng Bayan (HMB) Tactics, 811902. Both in ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
Otto Scharth, The Strategy, Training, and Tactics of the Huks in the Philippine Islands
(Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53), pp. 9–12; Fred Barton, Salient
Operational Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in Three Asian Areas, ORO–T–228
(Chevy Chase, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1953),
pp. 204–10, 233–35. Estimates of Huk strength vary. See Charles Bohannan,
“Antiguerrilla Operations,” Annals 341 (May 1962): 21; Tomas Tirona, “The Philippine
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Anti-Communist Campaign,” Air University Review 7 (Summer 1954): 47; Dillon,
“Comparative Strategies,” p. 285.
First quote from David Greenberg, “The United States Response to Philippine
Insurgency” (Ph.D. diss., Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University,
1994), p. 100. Remaining quotes from FRUS, 1951, vol. 6, Asia and the Pacific, p.
1561, and see also pp. 1505–12, 1536–39, 1553–54. FRUS, 1950, vol. 6, East Asia and
the Pacific, pp. 1435–37; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 220–22; Dillon, “Comparative
Strategies,” p. 287; Richard Kessler, Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines (New
Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 138.
Greenberg, “United States Response to Philippine Insurgency,” pp. 123, 174;
FRUS, 1950, 6:1437, 1483, 1487, 1514–20; FRUS, 1951, 6:1495, 1500; Memo, John F.
Melby, Chair, Joint State-Defense Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP) Survey
Mission to Southeast Asia, for FMACC, 29 Sep 50, pp. 2–3, atch to Rpt, Joint Mutual
Defense Assistance (MDA) Survey Mission in Southeast Asia, 27 Sep 50, sub: Report
No. 4 of the Joint MDA Survey Mission in Southeast Asia (hereafter cited as Erskine
Rpt), in 091 Philippines, 1950–51, G–3, RG 319, NARA.
Hermes, Development of the Role of the U.S. Army Military Advisor, p. 36;
Erskine Rpt, p. 10.
For evidence that JUSMAG planners were mindful of the Greek example, see
Greenberg, “United States Response to Philippine Insurgency,” p. 126; Briefing,
JUSMAG to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines et al., n.d., sub: Ground Forces:
Organization, Disposition, Tactics, Logistics, and Recommendations to Philippine
Government Made by JUSMAG, p. 14, atch to Rpt, JUSMAG, 29 Sep 50, sub: Weekly
Summary of Activities, in 319.1, JUSMAG, Philippines, 1949–53, RG 334, NARA;
Memorandum for the Record (MFR), G–3, 26 Oct 51, sub: Request by JUSMAGPHIL
on Operational Procedures Utilized in Greece by JAMAG, in 091 Philippines, G–3
1950–51, RG 319, NARA.
John Jameson, “The Philippine Constabulary as a Counterinsurgency Force,
1948–54” (Student thesis, AWC, 1971), pp. 17–18; Greenberg, “United States Response
to Philippine Insurgency,” p. 117; Erskine Rpt, an. B, pp. 9–10; Rpts, JUSMAG, 18 Jan
51, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group to
the Republic of the Philippines, pp. 29–30, and 25 Mar 50, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal
of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of the Philippines, p.
5. Both in 091 Philippines, G–3 Classified Correspondence, RG 319, NARA.
Rpt, JUSMAG, 25 Mar 50, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of the Joint United
States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of the Philippines, pp. 5–6; Hermes,
Development of the Role of the U.S. Army Military Advisor, pp. 38–38b; Memo, Melby
for FMACC, 29 Sep 50, p. 4, atch to Erskine Rpt.
Briefing, JUSMAG to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines et al., n.d., sub:
Ground Forces: Organization, Disposition, Tactics, Logistics, and Recommendations to
Philippine Government Made by JUSMAG, pp. 13–15, atch to Rpt, JUSMAG, 29 Sep
50, sub: Weekly Summary of Activities; Jameson, “Philippine Constabulary,” pp. 20–21;
Bohannan, “Antiguerrilla Operations,” p. 21.
A battalion combat team had 1,047 men and consisted of a headquarters and headquarters company, three infantry companies, a heavy weapons company of mortars and
machine guns, a reconnaissance company partially outfitted with armored cars, and a
service company. Typical attachments included an artillery battery whose crewmen often
served as infantry, a scout dog team, an air detachment, a military intelligence team, a
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
psychological warfare and civil affairs team, a medical detachment, and up to a dozen
Scout Ranger teams. Although the formation was not entirely ideal for Philippine conditions, it proved to be an effective adaptation. Luis Villa-Real, “Huk Hunting,” U.S. Army
Combat Forces Journal 5 (November 1954): 32; Donald MacGrain, “Anti-Dissident
Operations in the Philippines” (Student thesis, AWC, 1956), pp. 16–18; Rpt, JUSMAG,
25 Mar 50, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of the Joint United States Military Advisory
Group to the Republic of the Philippines, p. 5.
For State and Defense Department support for greater American involvement
and for JUSMAG’s opposition, see FRUS, 1950, 6:1435–37; FRUS, 1951, 6:1534;
Erskine Rpt, pp. 12, 16; Rpts, JUSMAG, 18 Jan 51, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of
the Joint United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of the Philippines, pp.
45–47, and 14 Feb 52, sub: Semi-Annual Report, 1 July–31 December 1951, p. 3, 091
Philippines, G–3, 1952, RG 319, NARA.
Edward Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), pp.
47–49; Boyd Bashore, “Dual Strategy for Limited War,” Military Review 40 (May
1960): 57. The Scout Rangers were patterned after the U.S. Army’s Alamo Scouts, which
during World War II had conducted small-scale reconnaissance, observation, and intelligence operations behind Japanese lines, as well as Philippine organizations like Force
X and the Nenita unit. Such formations were partly inspired by techniques employed
by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston during the Philippine War of 1899–1902.
Christopher Harmon, “Illustrations of ‘Learning’ in Counterinsurgency,” Comparative
Strategy 11 (January–March 1992): 41; McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, pp. 112,
115, 119–22; Barton, Salient Operational Aspects, pp. 173–77; Rpt, JUSMAG, 18 Jan
51, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group to
the Republic of the Philippines, p. 49.
At its height, JUSMAG numbered but sixty-four individuals and was never allowed
to post advisers on a permanent basis with Philippine units. The United States did not
allow its personnel to accompany Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) units on active
operations until 1953. Rpts, JUSMAG, 26 Apr 51, sub: Weekly Summary of Activities,
and 1 Dec 51, sub: Weekly Summary of Activities, both in 319.1, JUSMAG, Philippines,
RG 334, NARA; Robert Ross Smith, “The Hukbalahap Insurgency,” Military Review
45 (June 1965): 37–38; Barton, Salient Operational Aspects, pp. 59–60; Jameson,
“Philippine Constabulary,” p. 64; Uldarico Baclagon, Lessons from the Huk Campaign
in the Philippines (Manila: M. Colcol, 1960), pp. 66–69, 113, 180, 187; Rpt, Office
of the Assistant Chief of Staff (OACS), G–2, 17 Jan 52, sub: Notes on Psychological
Warfare, Historians files, CMH; Rpt, Mil Attache, Manila, 9 Jan 52, sub: Tactical
Notes for Use by BCT and Company Commanders, 866168, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA;
Clarence Barrens, “I Promise: Magsaysay’s Unique Psyop ‘Defeats’ Huks” (Master’s
thesis, CGSC, 1965), p. 74; Paul Linebarger, Psychological Warfare (Washington, D.C.:
Combat Forces Press, 1954), p. 260.
Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, pp. 117–18, 127–29;
MacGrain, “Anti-Dissident Operations,” pp. 25–26; McClintock, Instruments of
Statecraft, pp. 119, 123–25.
First and second quotes from Bohannan, “Antiguerrilla Operations,” p. 25.
Fourth quote from ibid., p. 26. Third quote from Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, p. 70.
Dillon, “Comparative Strategies,” p. 288; Greenberg, The Hukbalahap Insurrection,
pp. 107, 132; Iluminado Mangako, “The Constabulary and Rural Development,”
Philippine Armed Forces Journal (March 1956): 43–45. Both Americans and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Filipinos consciously patterned certain aspects of the counterinsurgency campaign
after techniques employed during the Philippine Insurrection. Even the Huks drew
inspiration from that conflict, flying the old revolutionary flag. Harmon, “Illustrations
of Learning,” p. 41; McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, p. 112; Valeriano and
Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, pp. 241–42; CGSC, Counterinsurgency
Case History: The Philippines, 1946–54, RB 31–3 (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: U.S.
Army Command and General Staff College, 1965), pp. 47–48, 70–71; Kerkvliet, Huk
Rebellion, pp. 160, 195; Robert Ginsburg, “Damn the Insurrectos!” Military Review
44 (January 1964): 59.
Briefing, JUSMAG to U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines et al., n.d., sub:
Ground Forces: Organization, Disposition, Tactics, Logistics, and Recommendations to
Philippine Government Made by JUSMAG, pp. 13–15, atch to Rpt, JUSMAG, 29 Sep
50, sub: Weekly Summary of Activities; Rpt, JUSMAG, 18 Jan 51, sub: Semi-Annual
Appraisal of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of the
Philippines, pp. 28, 43; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, pp. 32–33; Maynard Dow,
“Counterinsurgency and Nation-Building: A Comparative Study of Post–World War II
Antiguerrilla Resettlement Programs in Malaya, the Philippines, and South Vietnam”
(Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1965), p. 139.
Quote from Rpt, OACS, Intelligence, 24 Jan 52, sub: G–2 Evaluation, atch to
Rpt, Army Attache, Manila, 23 Dec 51, sub: Seminar of AFP CAO’s, 863148, ID,
G–2, RG 319, NARA; Bohannan, “Communist Insurgency,” p. 129; Rpt, JUSMAG,
18 Jul 51, sub: Semi-Annual Report, 1 January 1951 to 30 June 1951, pp. 26–27, in
091 Philippines, 1950–51, G–3, RG 319, NARA; Tirona, “Philippine Anti-Communist
Campaign,” p. 50; Andrew Molnar, Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds
in Insurgencies, DA Pam 550–104 (Washington, D.C.: Special Operations Research
Office, American University, 1966), p. 213; Rpt, JUSMAG, 14 Feb 52, sub: SemiAnnual Report, 1 July–31 December 1951, p. 3.
First quote from Erskine Rpt, p. 2. Second quote from Smith, Hukbalahap
Insurgency, p. 115. Even the Huks attributed their defeat to American intervention.
Lomperis, People’s War to People’s Rule, pp. 190–91; Kerkvliet, Huk Rebellion, p. 243;
McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, pp. 111–12.
Rpt, JUSMAG, 18 Jan 51, sub: Semi-Annual Appraisal of the Joint United States
Military Advisory Group to the Republic of the Philippines, p. 26; Msg, Manila 1533
to State, 25 Apr 51, sub: MDAP Monthly General Report for the Period Ending March
31, 1951, in 091 Philippines, G–3, 1950–51, RG 319, NARA; Rpt, JUSMAG, 18 Jul
51, sub: Semi-Annual Report, 1 January 1951 to 30 June 1951, pp. 20–21, 27–29; Rpt,
JUSMAG, 14 Feb 52, sub: Semi-Annual Report, 1 July–31 December 1951, p. 3; Rpt,
OACS, G–2, 28 Mar 52, sub: AFP—1952 Anti-Huk Campaign, 873401, ID, G–2, RG
319, NARA; MacGrain, “Anti-Dissident Operations,” pp. 19–20, 29.
Quote from CGSC, Counterinsurgency Case History: The Philippines, p. 140,
and see also pp. 132, 145–46. FRUS, 1952–54, vol. 12, East Asia and the Pacific, pp.
492–94, 497–501; Dillon, “Comparative Strategies,” p. 295; Kerkvliet, Huk Rebellion,
pp. 237–39, 268; Douglas Blaufarb and George Tanham, Who Will Win? (New York:
Crane Russak, 1989), pp. 115–16; Dow, “Counterinsurgency and Nation-Building,” pp.
100, 110–11, 137; Edward Lansdale, “Civic Action in the Military, Southeast Asia,” in
CGSC, Internal Defense Operations: A Case History, the Philippines, 1946–54, RB
31–3 (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1967),
p. 22.
The Counterinsurgency Advisory Experience, 1945–1955
Quote from Bohannan, “Antiguerrilla Operations,” p. 20, and see also pp. 27–29.
In their popular recounting of the insurgency, AFP Col. Napoleon Valeriano and
JUSMAG intelligence and guerrilla warfare expert Capt. (later Lt. Col.) Charles T. R.
Bohannan admitted that propaganda and modest initiatives, not major reforms, had
won the war. They considered most proposals for major socioeconomic reforms to
have been misguided and impractical, the product of American civilian officials who
were out of touch with Philippine realities. Valeriano and Bohannan, Counter-Guerrilla
Operations, pp. 75–76, 225; Bohannan, “Communist Insurgency,” p. 141; Shafer,
Deadly Paradigms, pp. 221, 224–25; Smith, Hukbalahap Insurgency, pp. 122–24;
Jameson, “Philippine Constabulary,” pp. 48, 64; Greenberg, “United States Response
to Philippine Insurgency,” p. 107; Greenberg, The Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 130;
FRUS, 1951, 6:1510, 1549; Scaff, Philippine Answer to Communism, pp. 123–24, 135;
Kerkvliet, Huk Rebellion, pp. 236–40.
Asprey, War in the Shadows, 2:480–88.
Charles MacDonald, An Outline History of U.S. Policy Toward Vietnam, U.S.
Army Center of Military History, 1978, pp. 3–7, CMH; Ronald Spector, Advice and
Support: The Early Years, 1941–1960, United States Army in Vietnam (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1983), pp. 97–104.
Edgar O’Ballance, The Indo-China War, 1945–1954 (London: Faber and Faber,
1964), pp. 104–28; Spector, Early Years, p. 124.
O’Ballance, Indo-China War, p. 195; Bernard Fall, “Indochina: The Last Year of the
War, Communist Organization and Tactics,” Military Review 36 (October 1956): 1.
O’Ballance, Indo-China War, pp. 140–51; Asprey, War in the Shadows, 2:502, 513,
MacDonald, Outline History, p. 11; Bernard Fall, “Indochina, The Last Year of the
War, The Navarre Plan,” Military Review 36 (December 1956): 48–50; Spector, Early
Years, p. 181.
Fall, “Navarre Plan,” pp. 52–55; Fall, “Communist Organization,” pp. 1–2.
MacDonald, Outline History, pp. 13–14.
Disenchantment with the way the French were conducting the war eventually led
the United States to insist that it have the opportunity to examine and comment on
French plans before approving any additional funding. This demand led to the dispatch
of a special military envoy, Lt. Gen. John W. O’Daniel, to Indochina in 1953. O’Daniel
consulted closely with Navarre, and his endorsement of the Navarre plan paved the
way for the special aid appropriation that followed. However, the Navarre plan was less
a detailed blueprint than a short and rather vague list of goals and guiding principles.
Efforts in 1953–1954 to post American observers with some French headquarters
elements were too limited and came too late in the conflict to affect its outcome.
MacDonald, Outline History, pp. 8–10; United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967:
Study Prepared by Department of Defense, 12 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 1971), bk. 1, ch. IV.A.2, pp. 11, 15; Spector, Early Years, pp. 127, 185;
James Arnold, The First Domino: Eisenhower, the Military, and America’s Intervention
in Vietnam (New York: William Morrow, 1991), pp. 118–22; FRUS, 1952–54, vol. 13,
Indochina, pp. 744–47; Annex D (Navarre Concept), p. 1, atch to Plan, Army G–3, 24
Mar 54, sub: Outline Plan To Achieve a Military Victory in Indochina, Historians files,
Spector, Early Years, pp. 99, 102, 114, 128, 162–65, 195, 221–22; Arnold, First
Domino, pp. 83, 98; FRUS, 1952–54, 13:745, 1017–18, 1110, 1114–15; Chester Cooper,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
The American Experience with Pacification in Vietnam, R–185, 3 vols., Institute for
Defense Analyses, Mar 72, 3:113, MHI; Lamar Prosser, “The Bloody Lessons of
Indochina,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 5 (June 1955): 30.
O’Ballance, Indo-China War, pp. 251–56; “Reasons for the French Failure in
Indochina,” U.S. Army Pacific Intelligence Bulletin (September 1959); Fall, “Navarre
Plan,” pp. 55–56; Arnold, First Domino, p. 386; William Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla
Warfare” (Student thesis, AWC, 1955), pp. 9–10; Ellen Hammer, The Struggle for
Indochina, 1940–1955 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1966), pp. 315–
The Korean Civil War
France’s defeat in Indochina left the United States with an even
win to loss ratio in its post–World War II counterinsurgency advisory
endeavors, as victories in Greece and the Philippines were offset by a
partial failure in Indochina and a crushing defeat in China. There was,
however, one more conflict to enter into the balance sheet—a bloody
conflagration that racked the Korean Peninsula for nearly a decade.
The Korean Civil War differed from the other irregular conflicts of
the post–World War II decade in that it was the only one in which the
United States moved beyond an advisory role to become a full-fledged
participant in the hostilities.
Occupation and Advice, 1945–1950
Unlike China, Greece, and the Philippines, Korea had suffered relatively little material damage during World War II, but it did not escape the
war’s effects. A Japanese colony, Korea bore the weight of the imperial
war effort, providing millions of people for overseas service in Japanese
military and economic enterprises, while back home the population
groaned under the weight of wartime inflation, exploitative landlords,
repressive police, and oppressive tax and rice collection systems. Japan’s
defeat unleashed a torrent of political activity as a host of groups competed to recast the country to their own liking. Communist and leftist
organizations were particularly popular in the countryside, where their
promises of land reform resonated among poor tenant farmers. Onto this
revolutionary situation the Allied powers imposed a temporary military
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
occupation designed to guide Korea through the transition from Japanese
colony to an independent nation. Divided geographically between northern (Soviet) and southern (U.S.) zones, each of the occupation regimes
cultivated those groups that appealed to their particular ideological interests and repressed those that did not. (Map 6)
The commander of U.S. forces in Korea, Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge,
followed the same creed of good government, free market economics,
and measured reform that characterized the postwar military governments in Germany and Japan. Unfortunately, his attempts at reforming
the Korean economic system produced unintended and often disruptive consequences, and in the fall of 1946 serious rioting erupted over
Hodge’s impolitic decision to continue the hated Japanese rice collection and taxation system. Tensions continued to simmer through 1947
and into 1948, when Cold War pressures led to the final abandonment
of the original goal of establishing a single Korean state. In its stead,
two rival regimes emerged, Communist North Korea under the leadership of ex-guerrilla chieftain Kim Il Sung, and non-Communist South
Korea under Syngman Rhee, a long-time nationalist with close ties to
the American Christian missionary community in Korea. Each man was
committed to the destruction of the other and the eventual reunification
of Korea under his own auspices. Rhee’s position, however, was tenuous, as the Republic of Korea (ROK) continued to experience political
infighting, peasant unrest, and periodic outbreaks of violence.1
The Communist South Korean Labor Party (SKLP) provided
the organizational nucleus for the anti-Rhee movement. It infiltrated
government organizations, gathered intelligence, spread propaganda,
and mobilized the population through a variety of front organizations.
Meanwhile, in the countryside SKLP cadres, bolstered by traditional
bandits and peasants who had tired of insensitive treatment at the hands
of landlords and policemen, took up arms. By the time the U.S. military
government officially turned over the reins of power to Rhee in August
1948, Communist guerrillas already controlled several large areas of
South Korea, most notably in the southwest, where tenant farmers
suffered the greatest exploitation, and in the Chiri, Taebaek, and Odae
mountain regions. Acting as “farmers by day and fighters by night,”
SKLP guerrillas sallied forth from remote mountain bases to attack
isolated police detachments and raid villages, alternately propagandizing and terrorizing the population.2
By 1949 the SKLP fielded several thousand guerrillas backed
by 10,000 party members, 600,000 active sympathizers, and up to 2
million “fellow travelers” in affiliated front organizations. Although
indigenous to the South, the movement was increasingly controlled
Tu m e n R
1000 and Above
Suiho Reservoir
Pujon (Fusen)
Changjin (Chosin)
3 8 ϒ PA R A L L E L
Chiri Mountain
Map 6
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
from the North, as Kim Il Sung sent cadres across the border to act
as troop commanders, political leaders, instructors, spies, and eventually as rank-and-file guerrillas as well. In 1949 North Korea formed a
Democratic Front for the Liberation of the Fatherland to orchestrate a
more concerted campaign of guerrilla warfare and political upheaval,
and thereafter northern control predominated, although communications difficulties and lingering regionalism impeded coordination.3
The Republic of Korea’s counterinsurgency effort suffered from
a number of defects. Factionalism, cronyism, and corruption permeated the government, while political and economic instability were
exacerbated by the South’s failure to redress popular grievances, as
Rhee preferred to suppress his political rivals rather than implement
reforms that might erode his power base. Suppression, however, was
not easy to achieve, as Rhee’s security apparatus suffered from serious structural problems. South Korea’s first security organization, the
National Police, was poorly paid and hated, having inherited from
the Japanese colonial police a reputation for brutality and extortion.
Scattered across the countryside in small, fortified posts, the police
were vulnerable to guerrilla concentrations and had difficulty quelling major uprisings.4
In 1946 the United States created the Korean Constabulary as
a light infantry reserve to reinforce the police during internal disorders. Unfortunately, a fierce rivalry grew between the police and
Constabulary that was never fully overcome and that greatly impeded
the execution of the counterinsurgency campaign. The Constabulary
had also been infiltrated by leftists during its formation and lacked
cohesion until a massive purge in 1948–1949 cleansed it of suspect
Upon gaining independence in 1948, South Korea redesignated the
Constabulary as the ROK Army, but the name change did not result in a
more effective force. Organized, trained, and advised by the U.S. Army
through the auspices of the Korean Military Assistance Group (KMAG),
both the police and army suffered from all the defects one might expect
from hastily raised forces immediately thrown into combat. KMAG’s
job was further complicated by the resistance some Korean officers
exhibited toward American advice. U.S. advisers expunged from the
South Korean Army with only the greatest difficulty certain outmoded
methods, like the banzai charge, that its officers had learned while
in Japanese service. In fact, the assistance group attributed the ROK
Army’s heavy losses when fighting guerrillas in 1948–1949 to the
refusal of some of its commanders to heed American advice, particularly with regard to march and camp security.6
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
In 1950 South Korea tried to relieve its regular infantry units of
counterinsurgency duty so that they could concentrate on fixing their
many operational, administrative, and training defects. This was done
by creating special counterguerrilla units—National Police combat
battalions and Army “antiguerrilla” battalions—as well as units of
railroad police. The initiative was only partially successful, as the new
forces were also poorly trained and equipped and lacked the numbers
necessary to keep the guerrillas in check. Moreover, both the railroad
police and antiguerrilla battalions were employed in largely static roles
to protect installations and lines of communications, a fact reflected in
the government’s eventual redesignation of the antiguerrilla battalions
as “security” battalions. Consequently, the army was never able to
quit the counterinsurgency business, and most major counterguerrilla
operations after 1950 continued to require large infusions of regular
infantry units.7
American advice to Rhee did not differ materially from that given
to other nations threatened by internal warfare during the Truman years.
Politically, the United States pushed for the establishment of more open,
democratic institutions, honest and effective administration, economic
development, and social reform, most notably in the areas of land tenancy and labor issues. These had been the goals, imperfectly achieved,
of the military government, and KMAG advisers continued such counsel after South Korea achieved its independence. Thus when the first
significant wave of sustained guerrilla warfare erupted in South Korea
on the island of Cheju-do in 1948, the Army’s local representative, Col.
Rothwell H. Brown, suggested that economic development, honest and
efficient governmental administration, an improved public relations
program, and better behavior on the part of the police would go far
toward resolving the situation. Three years later, a KMAG document
echoed these sentiments, noting that “Communist forces will find it
hard to grow or even exist among people who are well fed, well housed,
well clothed and gainfully employed. On the other hand, it is useless to
believe in the ultimate success of any military operation if conditions
continue to foster political or economic discontent.”8
Since political and economic reforms were outside its purview, the
assistance group concentrated its “political” efforts on improving the
conduct of ROK security forces. Government forces routinely used torture to extract confessions, executed suspects without trial, appropriated civilian property to supplement their meager wages, and on occasion
massacred villagers in retaliation for guerrilla ambushes.9 Americans
attributed Korean brutality to cultural factors and to Japanese precedent. Torture, terror, and abuse had been standard practices throughout
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A U.S. Army adviser helps a Korean Constabulary officer plan
a counterguerrilla operation on Cheju-do.
the Japanese empire, and a significant proportion of the leadership of
the new Korean security forces had served in Japanese forces during
World War II. KMAG chief Brig. Gen. William L. Roberts considered
the Korean soldier’s “desire to kick civilians around like his Jap predecessors used to do, his sadistic tendencies” to be his chief weakness,
and he cautioned new advisers that “one of your greatest problems will
come from Korean Army personnel having the wrong attitude toward
civilians.” Roberts directed his subordinates to stress impartial enforcement of the law and humane behavior, instructing them to report all
incidents of abuse and to press for the punishment of offending personnel. The assistance group also drafted regulations for the South Korean
Army that banned foraging and compulsory civilian labor.10
By 1949 American pressure for reform had begun to bear fruit. On
Cheju-do the government changed tactics, initiating a new strategy of
“half force, half administration,” under which it called “a halt to the
indiscriminate slaying of residents of the hill country villages” while
providing additional relief supplies. Adopting Chiang Kai-shek’s formulation of counterinsurgency as seven parts political and three parts
military, Rhee offered amnesty to Communist activists and endeavored
to mobilize public support through propaganda and political action. The
government enacted a land reform program and created the National
Repentance Alliance, an organization of ex-subversives who in return
for their confessions and denunciation of communism were absolved
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
of their sins and given help finding jobs. The organization, which had
300,000 members, not only rehabilitated former opponents, but served
as an effective propaganda, intelligence, and population-control mechanism. In time the government placed some of the penitents into special
armed propaganda teams, called Listen to Me units, which proved
effective in both propaganda and combat roles.11
Local officials supplemented these initiatives with programs of
their own. In South Cholla, the provincial government reopened schools
and imposed a program of political reeducation in guerrilla-dominated
districts. It reinforced this effort by forming a special pacification
unit composed of local dignitaries and army musicians that attempted
alternately to coax and serenade the guerrillas into surrendering.
Meanwhile, in neighboring South Kyongsang the provincial governor
established a rural education program in which teams of officials and
youths armed with pamphlets, loudspeakers, and films praised the government and vilified the Communists. Such actions received a boost
from Rhee’s growing concern over allegations of human rights abuses,
a concern that led him occasionally to punish individuals for committing or tolerating atrocities. By January 1950 the assistance group was
able to report that whereas “the Army and police were once despised
just as much as the rebels for their looting by the villagers, this feeling
has been corrected for the most part and an encouraging amount of
cooperation is being experienced between the villagers and the protective forces. This program of placating the villagers has been successful
to the point where villagers are reporting to the Army and police locations of guerrilla food caches and movements.”12 (Map 7)
While KMAG supported efforts to integrate political, economic,
and psychological initiatives into a combined politico-military campaign, it naturally concentrated most of its efforts on the military
aspects of the insurgency. Most of the information imparted to the
South Koreans by their American advisers concerned conventional subjects such as organization, administration, logistics, and training. These
were subjects essential to the effectiveness of any military organization,
and while naturally patterned on U.S. Army concepts, the assistance
group was aware that it had to take Korean conditions into account.
From the start, KMAG molded the armed forces of South Korea for
internal security duties. It outfitted them with light weapons and equipment rather than the heavier ordnance required for conventional operations, while its troop training curriculum focused almost exclusively on
marksmanship, patrolling, march and camp security, and small-unit tactics—fundamentals that were equally applicable to both conventional
and unconventional situations. The assistance group issued guidelines
3 8 ϒ PA R A L L E L
Area of Guerrilla Strength
Map 7
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
for antiguerrilla training, wrote campaign plans, and helped execute
those plans through advisers posted to infantry regiments and major
police and military commands. It thus exercised a great amount of
influence over the conduct of the counterguerrilla campaign.13
Trial and error played a significant part in KMAG’s efforts, as few
advisers had any counterguerrilla experience. American advice was
neither the only, nor necessarily the most important, influence on the
conduct of counterguerrilla warfare in Korea because the Koreans also
looked to Asian examples. Several high-ranking South Korean officers
had served in either the Chinese Nationalist or the Japanese armed
forces during the 1930s and 1940s, where they learned how these two
armies conducted counterguerrilla operations. Among the techniques
they had observed were active police and counterintelligence measures
to unearth the Communist underground, the pao chia system, reprisals,
the forcible relocation of rural dwellers into fortified villages in order
to separate them from the guerrillas, the creation of village self-defense
and militia groups, and even the development of political, economic,
and propaganda programs to win popular support. Encirclement, sometimes on a massive scale, had been a standard Sino-Japanese technique,
while the Japanese had particularly favored winter operations, when
leafless trees and harsh weather complicated the guerrillas’ ability to
move, hide, and survive relative to their more logistically endowed
opponents. Finally, in guerrilla base areas that were either too strong
or remote to be controlled, the Japanese had employed a strategy of
“Three All”—take all, burn all, kill all—in which they laid waste to the
countryside, both to deny the guerrillas human and material resources
and to break the people’s will to resist. Ultimately, the South Koreans
would employ all of these Sino-Japanese techniques, blending them
with American organizational and tactical methods to create an increasingly effective—if sometimes harsh—counterinsurgency campaign.14
The counterguerrilla war in South Korea represented a multilayered
effort. At the rice roots level, police detachments housed in medievalstyle forts guarded villages and conducted patrols. They were assisted
by a variety of paramilitary organizations. These groups had first
emerged in 1945 as the private armies of rival political factions and
personalities. In time Rhee asserted control over these organizations,
occasionally integrating their personnel into police and military units
and supplementing their numbers by drafting villagers into militia and
“voluntary police” organizations. Undisciplined and prone to committing atrocities, the paramilitaries were invaluable for waging street
battles and controlling the behavior of the civilian population. Together
with the police, they gave Rhee the means for enforcing a variety of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
population-control measures, including the pogap, South Korea’s version of the pao chia system. Granted sweeping powers by the legislature to arrest and detain suspected Communists, the police and paramilitaries were Rhee’s primary instrument for “ruthlessly stamping out
the communist party organization and guerrilla resistance, employing
whatever methods were considered necessary.” By the end of 1949 the
government had arrested approximately 30,000 suspected subversives,
adopting in time the Greek custom of conducting mass arrests prior to
launching a counterguerrilla offensive to disrupt the enemy’s command,
intelligence, and supply systems.15
U.S. Army advisers and Counter Intelligence Corps personnel took
an active part in the counterinfrastructure campaign, both by helping
establish indigenous intelligence systems and by participating in the
interrogation of Communist suspects. During the Cheju-do rebellion
of 1948, Army advisers created a “central intelligence agency” to
collect, coordinate, analyze, and disseminate all insurgency-related
information from police, military, and civilian sources. This system
was so successful that the assistance group directed that similar entities be established in every South Korean division and counterguerrilla command. Meanwhile, U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps agent
Lt. Tero Miyagishima formed a network of civilian informers in the
Chiri-San guerrilla base area that, while failing to penetrate the guerrilla bands, succeeded in gathering useful information from area villages. Eventually, the South Koreans developed their own spy networks
that, together with the police and paramilitaries, helped break the
Communists’ underground organization.16
Despite their value in controlling the population and attacking
the Communist infrastructure, the local police and paramilitaries
lacked the training, discipline, support structure, and morale needed
to take the offensive against the guerrillas. Indeed, their dispersed
deployment made them vulnerable to annihilation by superior guerrilla concentrations. Relief for beleaguered garrisons and impetus
for offensive sweeps came from the second tier in the government’s
security apparatus—mobile police combat battalions, Army security
battalions, combat youth regiments, and regular infantry formations
detailed for that purpose. These forces conducted patrols and sent
columns into the hills to hunt the guerrillas. Cordon and sweeps, in
which security forces surrounded a village, searched it, and interrogated its inhabitants, were common. Manpower shortages and
logistical difficulties, however, often reduced the effectiveness of
such operations, most of which lasted no more than three days.
Consequently, the government found that it had to resort to a third
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
A U.S. Army adviser (right) to the Korean National Police helps
display captured guerrilla flags.
layer of effort—large-scale drives spearheaded by Army regulars—to
disperse large guerrilla concentrations.17
ROK Army offensives typically lasted up to several months and
involved tens of thousands of soldiers, policemen, and paramilitaries. They usually took the form of an initial encirclement followed by
either a linear sweep or a concentric advance. Army units conducted
what contemporary American documents referred to as “extensive
search and destroy” operations to break up major guerrilla units, while
police and paramilitary formations lent support and formed cordons
to prevent escape. Once the major sweep had been completed, police
and army units would break down into smaller units to exert “constant
pressure” on the remaining insurgents. The regulars would then depart,
leaving the local police and paramilitaries to consolidate the gains
and prevent a guerrilla resurgence. Like the Japanese and KMAG’s
counterparts in Greece, KMAG advisers also recognized the wisdom
of undertaking operations at a time when seasonal conditions rendered
the irregulars most vulnerable, and consequently the assistance group
made winter campaigning a staple of the counterguerrilla war, crafting
major offensives for every winter between 1949 and 1955.18
Large-scale encirclements were no panacea to the guerrilla problem. They required large numbers of troops and had to be executed
with speed and stealth, lest the guerrillas escape before the trap could
be sealed. All too often, these criteria were unmet. Coordinating
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Korean National Policemen inspect captured guerrilla weapons.
the movements of police, military, and paramilitary formations over
considerable distances in mountainous terrain with inaccurate maps,
inadequate communications equipment, and meager intelligence was
exceedingly difficult. All of these problems were magnified in winter,
when cold temperatures inflicted great hardships on the troops. Even
under the best conditions, rooting out the guerrillas in their mountain
lairs was, recalled one U.S. adviser, “an almost impossible task. The
mountains were thickly wooded with trees and underbrush, precipitous
and extremely rocky and rough in nature, which not only provided
excellent cover for the guerrilla groups, but confined troop movement
to single trails and made ambushing a constant threat.”19
These handicaps notwithstanding, large operations, such as the Winter
Punitive Operation of 1949–1950, Operation Ratkiller (December
1951–March 1952), and Operation Mongoose (July–August 1952)—all
of which employed the equivalent of two or more divisions—could be
effective. When carefully conceived and executed, operations like these
could inflict serious losses on the enemy, killing and capturing many
guerrillas, destroying their food and shelter, and imposing hardships that
led some guerrillas and their civilian supporters to defect. Moreover, by
compelling the guerrillas to break down into smaller units, the government not only gained the initiative, but created circumstances under
which it too could operate in smaller formations. Although the South
Koreans and their U.S. advisers tended to adhere to large-scale operations
beyond the point of diminishing returns, government forces nevertheless
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
did break down into smaller units to harass the irregulars, furthering their
disintegration until the guerrillas, like their Huk contemporaries, were
little more than small bands of fugitives.20
While encirclement operations and infantry tactics were the
mainstays of the shooting war, concentration and devastation were the
primary methods by which the government drained the “sea” of the
human and material “nutrients” the guerrilla “fish” needed to survive.
Beginning in 1948 with the first major counterguerrilla offensive of
the insurgency, the South Korean government embraced a strategy of
removing civilians from guerrilla-controlled areas. The government
placed the evacuees in refugee camps and fortified towns—known
variously as “collective villages” and “assembly villages”—where
police and militiamen protected them from subversive influences. The
security forces then put to the torch everything that could be of use to
the guerrillas—buildings, villages, and crops. Anyone remaining in
these areas was considered suspect and liable to arrest and detention if
not outright death. By 1949 South Korea had relocated approximately
100,000 people from guerrilla-infested Cheju-do, evacuating over half
the island’s villages and destroying nearly 40,000 houses, though guerrilla raids accounted for some of this destruction. While harsh, this
policy succeeded in breaking the back of the rebellion, for it increased
the guerrillas’ vulnerability to famine and inclement weather, undermined the willingness of both the guerrillas and the civilian population
to continue their resistance, and materially weakened the irregulars by
cutting them off from the population upon which they depended for
intelligence, recruits, and supplies.21
Success on Cheju-do led to imitation elsewhere. KMAG plans for
the Winter Punitive Operation of 1949–1950, the first major counterguerrilla offensive on the mainland, called for the relocation of over
100,000 civilians, followed by the confiscation of all food and the
destruction of all villages in several guerrilla base areas. Such activities
were not without cost, however. As in Greece they disrupted agricultural production and created huge numbers of destitute refugees. For some
the experience became a catalyst for joining the rebellion, while others
sank into a sullen apathy. Caught between callous government officials
by day and unforgiving guerrillas at night, many people initially decided that placating the guerrillas was their best chance for survival and
refused to cooperate with authorities. The government’s occasional use
of devastation and other severe measures to retaliate against guerrilla
acts further discredited it in the eyes of the people. Yet the detrimental
effects of government-imposed hardships and abuse were not always
clear-cut. This was partially because guerrilla excesses also alienated
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
people and partly because the increasingly war-weary population tended to support whoever seemed to have the upper hand. By improving
the population’s security against guerrilla retaliation through increased
military activity, strict population- and resources-control measures, and
the establishment of defended villages, the government created conditions that enabled the people not only to withhold their support from the
irregulars, but to aid the government. Thus, while the government paid
a high price for its heavy-handed policies, that price did not prove to
be unbearable, and ultimately population relocation, protected villages,
and devastation were the primary means by which the government cut
the guerrillas off from the population.22
South Korean Counterguerrilla Operations
in an Expanded War, 1950–1954
By early 1950 the South Korean government had gained the upper
hand in its battle against internal dissidents. Through mass arrests,
combat operations, and amnesties, Seoul had dealt the labor party
a severe blow, and while discontent remained widespread, it was
fragmented and disorganized. Yet Rhee’s success had come dearly in
terms of lives, resources, and military readiness. The counterguerrilla
campaign tied down a third of the ROK Army, thereby weakening the
government’s ability to protect itself against external aggression and
exacerbating the military’s logistical and organizational weaknesses.
The army’s administrative systems were overburdened, its officers
uneducated, and its troops poorly trained. Indeed, by the end of 1949
less than half of the South Korean Army had completed company-level
training, and KMAG advisers openly complained of the army’s poor
performance. Oriented toward internal warfare, the ROK Army was
clearly unprepared for waging a conventional war.23
These points were not lost on Kim Il Sung. Having failed to overthrow the southern government through subversive means, in June 1950
he initiated a new chapter in the Korean Civil War by launching a major
conventional invasion of the South. Backed by tanks and heavy artillery, the northerners overran most of the country in a matter of weeks.
Only the southeastern corner of the Korean Peninsula around Pusan
managed to escape submersion in the Communist tide, thanks to the
intervention of United Nations (UN) military forces spearheaded by the
Eighth U.S. Army in Korea (EUSAK).
The North Korean People’s Army was a formidable foe. Some
of its members had fought with Mao during World War II and the
subsequent civil war in China. Others had served in Russian partisan
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
and regular units during the war.
All received training in guerrillastyle tactics according to precepts
laid down in Russian and Chinese
manuals. Like their mentors, the
North Koreans employed partisan
warfare as an integral adjunct to
conventional operations. Armed
and equipped as light infantry
and often disguised as civilians,
North Korean troops infiltrated
allied lines to disrupt UN rear
areas, laying ambushes, creating
roadblocks, destroying lines of
communications, and attacking
command and support installaA Korean soldier checks the
tions. Many of these operations
identity papers of a refugee in
were conducted at night so as
an effort to prevent Communist
to avoid UN air attacks while
infiltrators from getting behind
exploiting allied weaknesses in
allied lines.
night fighting. Espionage too was
a Communist specialty. The Communists routinely employed women
and children to gather information. One notable agent was “Poison
Mary,” whose daily visits to American positions around Pusan begging for food were invariably followed by mortar barrages of uncanny
accuracy—until a search of her skirts revealed a hidden radio by which
she had relayed target coordinates to North Korean artillerists. So disruptive were these activities that one senior U.S. general declared in
August 1950 that “the North Korean guerrillas are . . . at present the
single greatest headache to U.S. forces.”24
Disorganized by the South Korean government’s counterinsurgency
campaign and caught off guard by the rapidity of the North Korean
advance, South Korean Communists did not play a significant role during the first few weeks of the invasion. In time, however, they became
more active, encouraged by the apparent inevitability of a northern victory. They disrupted UN rear areas, acted as guides, and gathered intelligence. The southern Communists also helped their northern brethren
organize conquered territory, establishing Communist administrations
and instituting a wave of reprisals against former officials. These
actions proved premature, for in September 1950 the United Nations
counterattacked by landing deep behind the front lines at Inch’on. The
envelopment, coupled with a frontal attack at Pusan, sent the North
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Korean People’s Army reeling back north. The following month UN
forces invaded North Korea, capturing most of that country before the
Communist Chinese People’s Liberation Army intervened and drove
UN forces back across the inter-Korean border. The war would see-saw
around this boundary for another two years.25
North Korea’s near conquest of South Korea in the summer of
1950 and the rapidity of the UN’s counteroffensive had significant
consequences for the southern insurgency. The ebb and flow of the
battle lines disrupted the South Korean government and created huge
numbers of refugees. Reestablishing the government and caring for the
refugees were difficult tasks that created conditions conducive to further internal disorder. The rapidity of the UN counteroffensive had also
cut off large numbers of North Koreans from their homeland, swelling
the number of enemy troops operating behind UN lines to 40,000. This
represented a potential windfall for the insurgency, and by November
1950, 30 percent of UN forces were tied down performing rear area
security duty.26
Yet on balance, North Korea’s near victory proved disastrous for
the insurgency. In their belief that the war had been won, many South
Korean Communists had abandoned their covert habits in the summer of
1950 and emerged into the light of day. When South Korean authorities
returned on the coattails of UN forces later that year, the Communists
were caught in the open. Some succeeded in going back underground,
but many were apprehended. Still others chose to flee, either to North
Korea or, failing that, to the mountains where they joined the ranks of
the guerrillas. This had a devastating effect on the party’s village-level
apparatus, as the southern Communists were never fully able to restore
their infrastructure among the people, despite repeated urging from the
North that they do so. This in turn compelled the guerrillas to take what
they needed by force, a policy that merely exacerbated their standing
among the population. Even the prospect of being reinforced by the
large number of North Korean soldiers cut off by the UN counteroffensive proved chimerical, for although some of these men continued
to act in a partisan capacity, the majority attempted to exfiltrate back
to North Korea.27
The widening war increased American influence over the conduct
of South Korean counterinsurgency operations, as Rhee subordinated
the ROK Army to American command and the United States deployed
additional advisers. Several of the new U.S. personnel had had significant counterguerrilla experience prior to deploying to Korea. Foremost
among these was General Van Fleet, who assumed control over allied
ground forces in Korea in the spring of 1951. Fresh from his triumph
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
over Communist guerrillas in Greece, Van Fleet used his experience to
shape the counterguerrilla campaign. Other individuals of note were
Lt. Col. John Beebe, who applied what he had learned as a military
attache in China to his duties as the senior adviser to the Southern
Security Command—a major counterguerrilla organization—and Col.
William A. Dodds, a veteran of the Greek insurgency whom Van Fleet
purposefully appointed as the chief adviser for the largest counterguerrilla action of the war, Operation Ratkiller.28
With the additional U.S. personnel came additional equipment,
as the United States sought to bolster South Korea’s battered armed
forces. The infusion of materiel naturally had an effect on the counterguerrilla war, as it allowed the South Koreans to employ more
firepower than had been available in the past. Tanks and armored cars
escorted convoys, artillery shelled suspect areas cordoned off by police,
and American warplanes bombed guerrilla mountaintop strongholds.
Still, the counterguerrilla effort remained largely an infantryman’s war,
partly because the allies needed to concentrate the majority of their
heavy weaponry on the conventional battlefront and partly because
U.S. officers continued to doubt the utility of heavy equipment, given
the nature of the guerrilla war and Korea’s rugged terrain. General Van
Fleet was particularly skeptical in this regard. Though not eschewing
firepower, Van Fleet recognized that fire support was highly addictive,
especially to mediocre combat formations that tended to employ it as
a substitute for closing with the enemy. An overreliance on artillery
sapped military units of aggressiveness, encouraged road-bound movements, and produced indecisive results, as the irregulars often took a
preliminary bombardment as a signal to withdraw out of harm’s way.
These were the lessons Van Fleet had learned in Greece, and when he
drafted the plans for Operation Ratkiller he deliberately ordered the
South Koreans to leave their artillery behind, promising them a modest amount of tactical air support for those occasions when additional
firepower was necessary.29
While the infusion of additional American expertise and materiel thus altered the guerrilla war somewhat, it did not fundamentally
transform the conflict. Essentially, the South Koreans and their U.S.
advisers continued to apply the same concepts and techniques after
June 1950 as they had before that date. As had been the case before the
North Korean invasion, the National Police continued to bear most of
the counterinsurgency burden, as the demands of the conventional war
were such that regular troops, other than some fairly static “security
battalions,” were rarely available for counterguerrilla work for more
than a few months at a time. Moreover, when ROK Army units were
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
assigned to counterguerrilla operations, the commitment was usually
on a rotating basis during which the units were also expected to rest,
refit, and absorb replacements. This policy led to the creation of ad hoc
task forces whose commanders and staffs lacked the type of familiarity
with local conditions so necessary for effective counterguerrilla work.
The government rectified this situation somewhat in 1951 by creating several headquarters organizations called Combat Police Commands
to coordinate regional police activity. The following year, Seoul replaced
the police commands with Security Commands that integrated regional
police and military efforts. These entities provided important stability
with regard to staff and headquarters functions, but they still required
augmentation from external sources to conduct major offensives. The
assistance group also tried to replace the combat police with regiments
of light infantry specifically earmarked for counterguerrilla work. This
measure would have created a permanent counterguerrilla force within
the ROK Army while allowing the police to concentrate on their civil
duties, thereby improving the administration of civil law and reducing
unnecessary duplication and friction between the two security services.
The initiative, however, did not come to fruition during the war, and
consequently the government never fully overcame the inherent weaknesses in relying upon ad hoc troop deployments.30
As had been the case prior to 1950, large-scale cordon-and-sweep
operations backed by the removal of civilians and the destruction of
property remained the centerpiece of government efforts to clear vital
rear areas and reduce guerrilla strongholds. During the summer of
1950 U.S. and South Korean authorities evacuated several towns inside
the Pusan Perimeter, deporting some 12,000 people from the town of
Masan to isolated islands from which they were forbidden to leave.
South Korean troops made liberal use of the torch during counterguerrilla operations in the winter of 1950, and by the end of the following year intense guerrilla and counterguerrilla activity had generated
over 500,000 refugees in South Cholla Province alone. The winter of
1951–1952 brought more of the same as ROK soldiers destroyed all
structures and evacuated all civilians in the areas targeted by Operation
Ratkiller, and the South Koreans continued to employ such methods
for the duration of the war.31
U.S. Army Counterguerrilla Operations, 1950–1953
While the South Koreans and their KMAG advisers continued to
bear the brunt of the irregular conflict after June 1950, America’s entry
into the Korean Civil War meant that U.S. Army combat units would
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
perform counterguerrilla missions for the first time since America’s
intervention in the Russian Civil War thirty years before. U.S. commanders, however, deliberately minimized their participation in the
internal war. This was a sensible policy because it maximized the
respective strengths of the two armies—American firepower was best
suited for the conventional battlefront, while the lightly armed South
Koreans had the linguistic and cultural skills necessary to deal with the
population. Respect for Korean sovereignty and the necessity of closely
coordinating political and military initiatives further favored this division of responsibility. Consequently, direct American participation in
the counterguerrilla war was largely confined to the period between
June 1950 and June 1951, when South Korean weaknesses and rapid
fluctuations in the battlefront necessitated the commitment of U.S.
forces to counterguerrilla operations. Once the front had stabilized,
U.S. combat units rarely executed major counterguerrilla actions.
Two other factors influenced the conduct of American antiguerrilla
operations during the Korean War. First, the dire situation in which
U.S. forces found themselves in 1950–1951 necessitated that U.S.
commanders initially focus their efforts on maintaining the security of
critical lines of communications rather than pacifying the countryside.
Second, as noted earlier, many Korean Communists responded to the
UN’s 1950 counteroffensive by attempting to flee back into North
Korea. Their activities, while conducted in an irregular fashion and
disruptive to UN rear areas, were not aimed at establishing a permanent
presence in the countryside. This greatly simplified American operations, as did the fact that many Communist units were demoralized in
the wake of the Inch’on landings and chose to surrender rather than
fight when cornered by UN forces.32
To accomplish the largely defensive task of securing rear areas
against Communist partisans, U.S. commanders fell back on their
World War II experiences for guidance. This was necessary because
the 1949 edition of FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations,
did not provide a doctrine for rear area security. In time, and with the
help of Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins who gave a copy
of the procedures he had implemented to secure rear areas as a corps
commander in Europe during World War II, the Eighth Army developed an extensive rear area security system. This system was based on
the principle of economy of effort because it called for service troops
to bear most of the burden for their own defense. Eighth Army sited
and grouped installations for defensibility against partisan attack, protecting them with perimeter defenses, fortifications, and minefields.
Mobile reaction units stood ready to reinforce beleaguered posts, while
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
An armored railway car used by U.S. Military Police to keep South
Korea’s railroad lines free of guerrilla interference
armed convoys and armored trains manned by U.S. and South Korean
military policemen shuttled back and forth along defoliated routes
where trespassers could be shot on sight. The Korean Communications
Zone supervised the security effort, organizing elaborate communications and intelligence networks that coordinated the actions of installation garrisons, civil and military police, security units, and mobile
reaction forces to keep vital lines of communications and supply free
of partisan interference. Since the Communications Zone also handled
much of the UN Command’s civil affairs responsibilities and oversaw
the activities of South Korea’s two major territorial counterguerrilla
organizations—the Central and Southern Security Commands—it was
in an excellent position to coordinate the civil and military aspects of
the antipartisan campaign, although in practice things did not always
run smoothly.33
While World War II precedent helped Army officers establish
defensive measures against partisans, they had little other than a few
brief paragraphs in FM 100–5 to guide them on the offensive aspects
of antipartisan warfare. Maj. Robert B. Rigg, a veteran observer of
irregular warfare operations in Iraq and China, attempted to fill the
gap in an article that appeared in the September 1950 edition of
the U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal. After calling on the Army to
devote more attention to counterguerrilla warfare in its training and
doctrinal systems, Rigg prescribed a number of techniques, including
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
counterambush drills, raids and encirclements, refugee screening,
village searches, and the employment of natives as guards and spies.
Finally, Rigg impressed upon his readers that the “guerrillas depend
a lot on the local population. And so it is essential to get the local
people on your side. . . . It will save you time and effort. You’ll never
succeed without them.”34
Rigg’s advice was sound, and shortly after the publication of his
article the Department of the Army rushed newly developed counterguerrilla doctrinal materials to Far East Command. Both the article and
the new doctrine were undoubtedly helpful, but their appearance in
late 1950 meant that they were not fully digested by field commanders
until after the Army had begun to exit the counterguerrilla business in
early 1951. Consequently, U.S. counterguerrilla operations during the
Korean War are best understood by studying the operations themselves
rather than the emerging written doctrine, which is considered more
fully in the following chapter.
American participation in the counterguerrilla war reached its
height between October 1950 and February 1951. Following the
Inch’on landings and the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, Eighth
Army ordered IX Corps to clear a large swath of South Korea of
Communist troops cut off by the rapid U.S. advance. By the end of
October IX Corps estimated that it had killed, wounded, or captured
over 35,000 enemy troops behind UN lines. After the ROK III Corps
assumed the job of securing South Korea in early November 1950, the
U.S. IX Corps moved into North Korea where it was again involved in
clearing out guerrillas and bypassed enemy troops between Kaesong
and P’yonggang. Meanwhile, along North Korea’s eastern coast the 3d
Infantry Division struggled to secure the X Corps’ rear area from an
estimated 25,000 Communist partisans. After the Chinese had pushed
the X Corps out of North Korea in December, the corps’ 7th Infantry
Division joined with South Korean troops to combat Communist partisans in South Korea’s Taebaek Mountains. These efforts ultimately
culminated in the “Pohang Guerrilla Hunt” of January–February 1951,
a major encirclement operation conducted near Andong by the 1st
Marine Division, South Korean forces, and some U.S. Army units.35
When faced with the task of mopping up Communist irregulars
behind UN lines in late 1950 and early 1951, U.S. corps commanders
adopted a territorial approach, assigning divisions to specific geographical areas of responsibility. These areas were often quite large.
The zone of responsibility in October 1950 of the X Corps’ 25th
Infantry Division spanned about 16,835 square kilometers, while the 3d
Infantry Division in November was responsible for over 8,029 square
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Soldiers from the 65th Infantry bring in captured guerrillas.
kilometers. Commanders of these and other divisions assigned to counterguerrilla duty likewise assigned their subordinate units to subsidiary
zones in what the X Corps called the “war of areas.” Once fortified
base camps had been established, the units extensively patrolled their
assigned sectors. In the case of the 25th Infantry Division, most patrols
were conducted at the platoon level until several reversals at the hands
of larger North Korean formations led to the institution of companysize patrols. Once a patrol had located a guerrilla unit, it usually established a base of fire while sending a detachment to outflank and surround the enemy. The most successful operational technique consisted
of establishing a battalion-size blocking position while one or more
additional units swept in from another direction, driving the enemy
onto the blocking force.36
The dispersed and irregular nature of counterguerrilla operations
in Korea’s mountainous terrain led to some modifications in standard
procedures. Regimental combat team commanders frequently split their
heavy mortar companies to provide each of their battalions with some
organic fire support. Likewise, division commanders assigned artillery
battalions to the regimental combat teams, occasionally attaching batteries to individual rifle companies. Because of the threat of surprise
attacks, commanders established defensive perimeters around all camp,
fighting, and battery positions, detailing infantrymen to protect artillery batteries. Artillery firebases in guerrilla regions deployed their
guns so that each piece was aimed in a different direction in order to
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
provide immediate 360 degree coverage. Fear of ambush initially led
the 25th Infantry Division to prohibit its subordinate units from operating outside the range of supporting artillery. The division also banned
unobserved artillery fire to reduce the chance of inflicting civilian
U.S. ground commanders found that spotter aircraft were invaluable in keeping tabs on the guerrillas, while fighter-bombers provided
fire support in areas that were inaccessible to artillery. Korea’s rugged
terrain, communication difficulties, and inadequate liaison arrangements reduced the effectiveness of air and artillery fire support. So
too did the guerrillas’ habits of moving at night and hiding in caves
and forests. Nevertheless, under the right circumstances fire support
from artillery, aircraft, and warships could inflict significant casualties.
Most guerrilla casualties were from ground action, however, and at
one point during its counterguerrilla operations in the fall of 1950 the
25th Infantry Division transferred most of its artillery and tanks to the
conventional battlefront because it concluded that it no longer needed
such weapons once the guerrillas in its area had become scattered and
An American convoy, supported by aircraft, defends itself against a guerrilla ambush in the Korean mountains.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
The extensive employment of infiltrators by the North Koreans
and Chinese also led the Army to modify its tactics on the conventional
battlefield. Concerned that bypassed enemy units would initiate partisan operations, Eighth Army adopted a policy of conducting offensive
operations by broad sweeps in which units advanced line-abreast at
a slow pace regulated by phase lines and territorial boundaries. But
such tactics also made exploitation of momentary breaches in enemy
lines difficult and permitted the Communists to withdraw and regroup.
Nevertheless, Eighth Army adhered to the technique in the belief that it
was more cost effective than having to hunt down bypassed units.39
Modifications such as these improved American military effectiveness, but the real key to enhanced performance was better training.
Although the 25th Infantry Division concluded after its counterguerrilla duty in 1950 that “the war in Korea has not, as yet, revealed
any necessity for a change in established U.S. training doctrines,”
significant problems did in fact exist. Most U.S. soldiers were poorly
trained during the early phases of the war and neglected to practice
proper security procedures, often suffering heavily from Communist
ambushes as a result. U.S. soldiers also exhibited deficiencies in
patrolling techniques and rarely operated at night, when the guerrillas
were most active. These facts reinforce the conclusion that the heavy
casualties inflicted on Communist partisans in October 1950 by the IX
Corps were due more to the overall military situation than to American
tactical expertise.40
Eventually the situation improved, as General Collins directed that
all troops undergo counterguerrilla training. Collins’ order included rear
echelon soldiers like bakers, mechanics, and truck drivers who were
especially unprepared for the type of combat and security roles that the
irregular war imposed on them. Soon stateside training centers were
instructing Army service personnel in basic infantry skills, perimeter
defense, psychological warfare, night movements, and counterguerrilla
operations in order to enable the rear echelon soldier “to withstand successfully the pressures imposed on him by enemy infiltration tactics,
guerrilla operations, and unorthodox fighting methods.”41
Such training programs helped U.S. soldiers adapt to the challenges
they faced in Korea. Yet for the most part these adaptations were minor
because conventional doctrines for small-unit action, patrolling, march
and camp security, and night, mountain, and forest operations proved
sufficiently effective. In fact, Army Field Forces concluded that while
the Korean experience had demonstrated deficiencies in training and
execution, it had essentially ratified prewar doctrine, and, consequently,
the Army did not push for an overhaul of U.S. doctrine after the war.
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
The only truly innovative counterguerrilla tactic to emerge from the
war came from the marines, who experimented with using helicopters
to transport counterguerrilla patrols.42
One area where the Army did experiment was in the use of special units for counterguerrilla action. Stung by Communist infiltration tactics, in August 1950 Eighth Army created a Ranger company
for conducting a variety of infiltration, reconnaissance, raiding, and
guerrilla warfare missions. The Eighth Army placed the unit under
the command of Col. John H. McGee, a former guerrilla leader in the
Philippines who based his training program on those of the prewar
Philippine Scouts and Merrill’s Marauders, a World War II raiding outfit. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1950 General Collins established a Ranger
Training Command at Fort Benning, Georgia, that eventually trained
and deployed six additional Ranger companies to Korea. Because field
commanders often did not have suitable offensive missions for the
Rangers to perform, they frequently used them in rear area security and
counterguerrilla roles—missions for which the Rangers had not been
intended but which put to good use their intense training in small-unit
tactics and night operations.43
Occasionally, commanders supplemented the Rangers with task
forces drawn from conventional infantry formations in corps reserve
status. An even more exotic organization was Far East Command’s
Special Activities Group, a combined force of U.S. Army Rangers,
U.S. Marine Raiders, Royal Navy Commandos, Royal Navy volunteers,
South Korean police, and a South Korean Special Attack Battalion.
Originally intended for coastal raiding, the British and U.S. Marine
Corps elements failed to materialize, and the group ended up pulling
mostly counterguerrilla duty.
The Special Activities Group conducted intensive saturation patrolling throughout the X Corps area from December 1950 until its disestablishment in April 1951. Seek-and-destroy operations, night movements,
and ambushes, including squad-size stay-behind ambushes, were also
part of its modus operandi. The unit screened refugees, destroyed villages
and buildings that could be used by guerrillas, and provided medical
treatments to civilians. Its effectiveness was enhanced by the provision
of radios down to the squad level and the establishment of an extensive
intelligence network in conjunction with local authorities and Korean and
American intelligence services.44
Although they performed well in counterguerrilla roles, special
autonomous units like the Rangers and the Special Activities Group were
expensive to maintain and were bedeviled by logistical, manpower, and
administrative problems. Many commanders were unenthusiastic about
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Special Activities Group soldiers engage guerrillas.
the special units, whom they rarely used in roles for which they had
originally been intended. As the South Koreans increasingly assumed
responsibility for rear area security, even this mission fell by the wayside.
Consequently, the Army disbanded all such units in 1951, choosing to
boost combat performance by providing Ranger training to the Army as
a whole, rather than by relying on special formations.45
Counterguerrilla operations inevitably brought U.S. soldiers into
close contact with South Korean civilians. Thrown among people with
whom they could neither communicate nor readily tell friend from foe,
U.S. soldiers occasionally took out their frustrations on the population.
U.S. Army doctrine had long recognized that troop misconduct was
counterproductive, and U.S. commanders urged their subordinates to
prevent and punish all transgressions. Still, given the uncertainties of
the irregular war, soldiers needed “to be suspicious of any civilians
in front line areas.” U.S. commanders removed civilians from sensitive areas on both humanitarian and security grounds and imposed
nighttime curfews that permitted troops to shoot anyone found moving
around in civilian dress. U.S. units on counterguerrilla duty routinely
took all males whom they encountered as prisoners, sending them to
camps where Korean-American interrogation teams determined their
fate. Similar procedures were employed to screen refugees and search
villages. Typically, U.S. soldiers would surround a village, using artillery fire to block escape avenues that could not be covered by troops,
while South Korean police combed the hamlet looking for suspects
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
and contraband. Once a village had been cleared, the Americans helped
reestablish local government and police organizations, creating central
intelligence agencies to better coordinate military-police intelligence
The Army also sometimes inflicted reprisals on Korean civilians
for guerrilla actions, evacuating towns and destroying villages. Most
of these actions occurred during the early stages of the war, when U.S.
troops felt particularly vulnerable and had the most opportunity to
come into contact with Korean irregulars. Although punitive measures
tended to alienate people, their effects were complex, as villagers often
allied with one side for reasons of self-preservation rather than ideology. Noting this phenomenon, one American who had been commissioned by the U.S. Army to study the guerrilla war in Korea endorsed
the use of collective punishments against communities where guerrillas
were active, writing that “it is well recognized that an innocent person
punished singly or collectively for crimes he did not commit will tend
to take an almost extreme initiative to prove his innocence; suffer the
punishment with growing and sincere indignation; and finally turn with
acute wrath against the real culprit in his midst because of whom he,
the innocent, is suffering. It may be quite desirable to use this method
no matter how harsh it be, at least to arouse the sentiments of the bulk
of the population against [the guerrilla].” Far East Command, however,
rejected this conclusion, stating that “communal punishment in retaliation for the misdeeds of a few is not considered justifiable or wise.”
Consequently, U.S. officials generally discouraged retaliatory actions
in all but extreme cases.47
Although many of the Army’s dealings with the civilian population were restrictive in nature, Far East Command’s comments on
retaliation indicate that Americans were mindful of the human aspects
of the conflict. Indeed, between 1951 and 1953, the Civil Assistance
Command waged a relentless war on poverty and disease. Manned
largely by U.S. Army military and civilian personnel, the UN Civil
Assistance Command, Korea, fed and clothed 4 million refugees,
established health care facilities that treated nearly 3 million civilians,
and provided over 60 million inoculations. It helped plan and implement programs that restored water, sanitation, and other public utilities,
constructed and repaired transportation and communications systems,
and improved agricultural and industrial production. U.S. soldiers
chipped in on their own time, building orphanages, clinics, schools,
and churches. This charity work eventually gave birth to the Armed
Forces Assistance to Korea (AFAK) program in 1953. Conceived by
Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, the assistance
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
American and Korean soldiers deliver food to indigent civilians.
program combined American financial aid with the voluntary labor
of U.S. soldiers to construct over 3,780 facilities by the end of the
decade. Few of these efforts were undertaken specifically in response
to the guerrilla war. Most were performed either out of humanitarian
concerns or to facilitate the prosecution of the war. Yet they reflected
an old principle of U.S. military government and civil affairs doctrine,
for by ameliorating the hardships of war, the Army was also reducing
the risk of civil unrest.48
U.S. commanders tried to treat the civilian population humanely,
but they sometimes had difficulty exercising similar restraint toward
their enemies, especially during the darker moments of 1950 and 1951.
Although Far East Command demanded that captured North Korean
soldiers be treated as prisoners of war, U.S. commanders were somewhat confused by the status of guerrillas and North Korean regulars
disguised as civilians. One senior commander opined that “we cannot execute them but they can be shot before they become prisoners,”
while another solved the problem by “turning them over to the ROK’s
and they take care of them.”49 Eventually the UN Command clarified
the situation, insisting that all guerrillas be treated as prisoners of war.
South Korean treatment of captured guerrillas, on the other hand, continued to be “less sympathetic,” and in 1952 the government redefined
all “guerrillas” as “bandits” so that it would not have to treat captured
irregulars according to the precepts laid down in the 1949 Geneva
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
A civil affairs soldier organizes a village election.
While proper treatment of civilians and captured guerrillas
remained thorny issues, the most heavy-handed tactic employed by
U.S. counterinsurgency forces involved devastation. Like their KMAG
and South Korean counterparts, U.S. field commanders recognized that
the guerrillas depended on local food and shelter to survive the harsh
Korean winters, and they embraced devastation as a means of denying
such sustenance to the guerrillas. Although devastation was designed
to achieve military as opposed to punitive ends, Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway was disturbed by the political
and humanitarian ramifications of such policies, ordering on 2 January
1951 that “destruction for destruction’s sake will not be permitted,
nor will anything approaching ‘scorched earth’ tactics be condoned.”
Pressed by a major Communist Chinese offensive to their front and harried by thousands of Korean irregulars to their rear, U.S. commanders
found adhering to the spirit of his instructions difficult.51
For example, on 16 January 1951, Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond,
commander of the X Corps, asked Ridgway for additional air liaison
teams, noting that “air strikes with napalm against these guerrilla bands
wherever found is a most effective way to destroy not only the bands
themselves, but the huts and villages in the areas they retire to. . . . As
you know, I have instituted a campaign of burning these huts in guerrilla-infested areas, and an increased number of planes, with an effective means for controlling them, will greatly assist in this program.”
Ridgway did not object, and by the end of the month Almond reported
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
that “by air and artillery fire and by infantry patrols those villages,
buildings and shelters which are used, or suspected of being used, by
enemy personnel are being eliminated. This program is driving the
enemy into the open where he is more readily located and destroyed
and also where he suffers from the elements to the full extent.” The
destruction in some areas was quite intense, as Almond reported conducting 436 incendiary operations in just one nine-day period in what
he labeled the “zone of destruction.”52
Maj. Gen. David G. Barr, commander of the 7th Infantry Division
that was charged with conducting the incineration campaign around
Tangyang, reported after flying over the area on 18 January that the
“smoke from flaming villages and huts has filled valleys [in the] vicinity [of] Tangyang with smoke three thousand feet deep and blinded all
my observations and created [a] flying hazard.” Having seen the damage that heavy-handed tactics could inflict on a government’s popularity from his days in China, Barr openly worried that
methodical burning of dwellings is producing hostile reaction. . . . People
cannot understand why US troops burn homes when no enemy present. . . .
Methodically burning out poor farmers when no enemy present is against the
grain of U.S. soldiers. From house burning we already have estimated 8,000
refugees and expect more. These are mostly the old, crippled, and children. My
view is that the meager gain from this program is infinitesimal when compared
to the disastrous psychological effect it will produce. I recommend that selective burning be substituted for the methodical burning.53
Almond quickly approved Barr’s recommendation stating that his
intention had never been to authorize indiscriminate destruction. Yet
he continued to use fire as a weapon, instructing Barr to “select and
burn out those villages in which guerrillas or enemy forces were being
harbored, willingly or unwillingly, by the inhabitants, and those habitations . . . from which guerrillas could not otherwise be barred.” Almond
further cautioned that “it would be most unfortunate if the impression
described in your message were allowed to become widespread or
publicized,” and to help avoid a public outcry, unit commanders were
advised to describe their activities as “clearing fields of fire” rather
than “scorched earth” tactics.54
By March 1951 Ridgway had become so concerned with the
amount of destruction being inflicted by both the conventional and
unconventional aspects of the war that he reaffirmed his ban on the
“wanton destruction of towns and villages, by gun-fire or bomb, unless
there is good reason to believe them occupied.” American incendiarism
subsided somewhat thereafter, if for no other reason than the fact that
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
U.S. soldiers depart from a village that they have just set on fire
in order to prevent guerrillas from using it.
American participation in counterguerrilla operations also declined
after the spring of 1951. Nevertheless, destruction remained an integral part of America’s counterguerrilla repertoire, and in the fall of
1951 the U.S. Marines added a new dimension when, in Operations
Houseburner I and II, they pioneered the use of helicopters to ferry
incendiary patrols to their targets.55
By the spring of 1951 exfiltration, surrenders, and combat casualties had cut the number of guerrillas and North Korean partisans
in South Korea by nearly 50 percent. A year after the breakout from
the Pusan Perimeter, American intelligence estimated that the number of guerrillas operating in South Korea had fallen to about 7,500.
Of these, approximately 20 percent were North Koreans and another
20 percent were southerners forcibly recruited into guerrilla ranks.
The change in the composition of the guerrillas from a nearly allsouthern, all-volunteer force to one that was increasingly composed
of northerners and impressed men reflected the heavy toll inflicted
by government counterguerrilla operations and the inability of the
guerrillas to attract new recruits, both because of their own weaknesses and the success of the government’s countermeasures. By
1952 the allies had reduced the guerrilla problem to a nuisance
level. The guerrillas struggled on after the July 1953 armistice,
more as fugitives than as a viable combat force, and by 1955 they
were all but eliminated.56
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
South Korea and its UN partners defeated the insurgency through
a mixture of political and military means. Of the two, however, force
had proved to be the most important ingredient. Harried by increasingly
effective police and military operations, cut off from external aid by
the establishment of a solidified battlefront, and denied access to local
succor by government policies of devastation, population removal, and
population and resources control, the guerrilla movement gradually
withered and died. As in the Philippines, Korean guerrillas usually
surrendered not because of the lure of government aid programs, but
because they tired of living on the run, without proper food, clothes,
shelter, or security. Military action thus proved to be the key.57
This is not to say that political action did not play an important
role, but in the end, that role was a complementary one marred by
flaws in conception and execution. Of all of the political programs,
improvements in troop behavior probably had the most immediate
effect on the counterguerrilla war, as many commanders reported positive results when the troops behaved more civilly toward the populace.
Nevertheless, this problem was never fully rectified, as misconduct,
terror, and reprisal remained features of the war.58
The record of the allied propaganda campaign was similarly spotty.
Although the assistance group had begun developing counterguerrilla
propaganda materials in 1948, by 1950 it was forced to concede that “no
concentrated program of anti-guerrilla propaganda of any import has
been accomplished to date.” As the war progressed, the allies stepped
up the propaganda campaign, linking it with troop behavior and civil
assistance initiatives. During Operation Ratkiller in the winter of
1951–1952, the U.S. Air Force dropped 12 million propaganda leaflets
while teams from the South Korean Ministries of Education, Social
Affairs, Justice, and Home Affairs fanned out to assist the population
and restore local government services. The Army Staff in Washington
welcomed the news, noting that “reports of good treatment of civilians
by the ROK forces during the current antiguerrilla campaign reflect an
awareness of the importance of popular support in checking the guerrillas.”59 The results of such endeavors, however, were mixed. In the case
of Ratkiller, the 12 million leaflets produced only 300 surrenders,
while the 100,000 counterguerrilla leaflets dropped per month by the
Air Force in the fall of 1952 produced few defectors.60
Most of the allies’ early propaganda efforts had been directed at the
guerrillas themselves, but by the end of the war the allied propaganda
machine had redirected its attention from the guerrillas to the wider
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
population upon whom the guerrillas depended for their survival.61
Even so, much of this effort missed the mark. In contrast to Communist
propaganda, allied propaganda failed to touch home, focusing too often
on “high-sounding idealistic phrases that have been just empty words to
the peasant and worker.” The allies also did not sufficiently coordinate
their propaganda with meaningful civil relief and reform programs. In
either case, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Psychological Warfare
concluded after the war that the consolidation psychological warfare
effort—the branch of psychological warfare aimed at friendly and
occupied populations—had been unsatisfactory.62
While sporadic misconduct and inadequate propaganda may have
weakened the anti-Communist drive, the real limits to its effectiveness
came from the civil front. The civil war had created massive social and
economic turmoil, so much so that the people of South Korea were
significantly worse off by the end of the conflict than they had been
before it had begun. By the time of the armistice, 1 million South
Koreans were dead and 7.5 million were either refugees or destitute.
At least 600,000 homes had been destroyed, while both rice production
and per capita income were 30 percent lower than 1949 levels.63 Foreign
aid had barely enabled the country to survive, and by June 1953 the
United States believed that restoring South Korea to its preinvasion
standard of living would take three years and an additional $1 billion
in aid. Nor had the political situation improved. The government had
not had a chance to implement the 1949 land reform program before
the North Korean invasion threw the country into chaos, while the
State Department ruefully noted that the Rhee administration evinced
a “tendency toward irresponsible, capricious administration, stultifying
mediocrity and widespread corruption,” which, when coupled with its
willingness to use the police to intimidate voters and members of the
political opposition, created an “unfortunate trend toward autocratic,
one-man, unrepresentative government.” Thus, while U.S. policy makers might have wished that victory had been achieved under different
circumstances, in the end the South Koreans had defeated the insurgency without making any significant social, economic, or political
The Truman-Era Counterinsurgencies in Retrospect
In 1945 the U.S. Army did not have a significant body of doctrine concerning the suppression of insurgencies. A half-decade of
global warfare had washed away virtually all of the Army’s institutional
memory regarding its many prewar experiences in irregular combat and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
overseas nation building. Nor did Americans find applying the lessons
of one postwar insurgency to the next easy, partly because each event
was governed by its own set of circumstances and partly because the
insurgencies occurred virtually simultaneously. True, the conclusion of
the Chinese and Greek Civil Wars in 1949 had permitted the transference of some ideas and personnel to the Philippines and Korea, but for
the most part U.S. advisers approached their duties without any detailed
knowledge about revolutionary warfare. Although American ignorance
was hardly blissful, it had, at least, permitted advisers to adapt to the
situation at hand, taking into account the unique political, military, cultural, and topographical circumstances under which each conflict was
fought, unencumbered by preconceived notions, pedantic doctrines, or
slavish parroting of Mao.
The doctrinal void notwithstanding, U.S. soldiers addressed the
postwar insurgencies with surprising consistency. The fact that all of
the insurgencies were guided by Communists who shared to one degree
or another a common insurrectionary creed contributed to these similarities, as did the very nature of guerrilla warfare itself, whose age-old
principles naturally begot similar responses. Yet there were also other
elements at work.
On the political front, the consistency with which the U.S. Army
approached the postwar conflicts stemmed in part from the foreign
policies of the Truman administration. In the administration’s opinion, political unrest flourished in situations where governments were
unstable and undemocratic, where social problems went unaddressed,
and economic hardships abounded. Rectify these problems, and communism would not be able to flourish. Social, political, and economic
reform thus became Truman’s primary weapon in the war against communism, an approach reflected in each of the postwar insurgencies as
well as in the Marshall Plan.
The Truman administration’s philosophy set the parameters under
which the Army operated in the postwar decade, but it was not unique.
In fact, Truman’s policy was entirely consistent with the way the United
States had traditionally approached nation-building and counterinsurgency tasks. Fueled by a heady blend of American democratic and
progressive values, sociological and anthropological theory, missionary zeal, and ethnocentric conceptions of the “white man’s burden,”
American civil and military policy makers had been prescribing the
same troika of good government, socioeconomic improvement, and
military action for nearly a century.65
U.S. soldiers shared the administration’s faith in this creed, though
they tended to believe that meaningful social and economic progress
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
could not be achieved until after military security had been established.
In time many, though not all, American diplomats came to agree with
them, citing both the necessities of the situation and the difficulty of
transforming indigenous institutions in the midst of a war. Indeed,
American policy makers were destined to relearn what previous generations of U.S. soldiers and statesmen had already found to be true—that
reshaping foreign societies was exceedingly difficult, especially when
the indigenous elites whose cooperation the United States needed had a
vested interest in the status quo. All too often American officials found
that they lacked the leverage necessary to force America’s allies to
enact meaningful internal reforms. This proved true not only in Greece
and South Korea, where the indigenous governments triumphed without making significant reforms, but in the Philippines as well, where
many of the reforms turned out to be rather superficial. Only in China
was the United States willing to stick to its principles and allow an
inflexible regime to fall. The terrible ramifications of that fall—the loss
of 20 percent of the world’s population to communism and acrimonious debates at home over “who lost China,” further undermined U.S.
leverage, as did the growing stakes of the Cold War. Thereafter, when
forced to chose between supporting a less than democratic regime or
permitting a Communist overthrow, the United States frequently chose
to stand by its imperfect allies, still urging them to reform but refusing
to abandon them when they did not.66
Frustrated by their inability to reshape foreign societies, U.S. officials often sought solace in the idea that a change of leadership in the
country in question would provide the necessary impetus for overcoming the many cultural and institutional barriers to reform. Speaking of
Chiang Kai-shek, Secretary of State Dean Acheson concluded that “if
there is one lesson to be learned from the China debacle it is that if
we are confronted with an inadequate vehicle, it should be discarded
or immobilized in favor of a more propitious one.” There was merit
in this idea, and, by helping to elevate Alexander Papagos and Ramon
Magsaysay, the United States had indeed succeeded in infusing life into
otherwise pallid counterinsurgency efforts. Such an approach was not a
panacea, however, as the United States would soon learn.67
Although many U.S. soldiers were unfamiliar with the Army’s
many irregular warfare and nation-building experiences of the previous
century, the Army had distilled the lessons of these experiences into a
doctrine that reflected the many subtleties and ambiguities of operations
of this nature. On the political front, FM 27–5, United States Army and
Navy Manual of Civil Affairs Military Government (1947), called for
unified and coordinated civil-military action, flexible plans, clear and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
consistent policies, honest and efficient administration, sensitivity to
indigenous cultural norms, and humane treatment of civilians and prisoners. For the most part, the Army endeavored to follow this doctrine
during the postwar insurgencies, although it often found that personal,
political, bureaucratic, and national differences and rivalries impeded
the attainment of these goals. Indeed, Army leaders soon discovered
that implementing a clear and coordinated civil-military program was
no easier in the 1940s and 1950s than it had been during the previous
century in places like the American South during Reconstruction, the
western frontier, Cuba, the USSR, or the Philippines. Still, enlightened
benevolence, no matter how hard to achieve in practice, remained the
Yet while FM 27–5 called for intelligent and humane policies to
cultivate public favor, it also recognized that “restrictive or punitive
measures,” including “the taking of hostages, the imposition of collective fines, or the carrying out of reprisals,” were often necessary
to suppress a restive population. Humanity and political acumen
alike dictated that commanders resort to the severest measures only
in extreme circumstances and when conditions were most favorable
for their success. But such weapons remained an essential part of the
military’s arsenal, just as Magsaysay’s right hand of force had backed
the left hand of friendship, and in every postwar insurgency the twin
principles of attraction and chastisement had guided U.S. Army actions
and advice.68
Militarily, U.S. soldiers adhered to the broad antipartisan principles that had been included in every edition of FM 100–5 since
1939. They consistently pressed for inspired leadership and aggressive action, urging their counterparts to break free from blockhouse
mentalities and enervating piecemeal deployments. Killing the enemy
and breaking his will to resist, not seizing and holding terrain, were
the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency goals. Cutting the guerrilla off
from cross-border sanctuaries and external support was also a cardinal American tenet. But U.S. soldiers also realized that victory
could not be achieved without isolating the guerrilla from his sources
of internal support. Here, once again, attraction and chastisement
played their intricate dance. In one hand, the United States and its
allies offered civil, medical, and economic palliatives to ease wartime
suffering and attract public support, while in the other they wielded
a variety of repressive measures designed to attack the insurgents’
presence among the population and control antigovernment behavior.
Among these were the establishment of effective police and counterintelligence systems; the issuance of identity cards; the imposition
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
of restrictions on travel, on communications, and on the possession
of arms, food, and other commodities; the suspension of certain
democratic rights, like habeas corpus; and, when necessary, devastation and population relocation. Some soldiers fretted that such steps
smacked of totalitarianism, yet most came to accept them as unpleasant but necessary weapons in the war against subversion.
Operationally, Americans favored large-scale encirclements and
sweeps, coordinated with civil and police measures, to break the hold
of large guerrilla units over rural base areas. In China and Greece, U.S.
planners recommended a strategy of systematic and progressive area
clearance. In the Philippines, where the guerrillas were more localized,
and in Korea, where external forces greatly disrupted the prosecution of
the internal campaign, less systematic approaches were used, with the
Americans usually counseling that the indigenous government attack
the largest guerrilla concentrations first before targeting less important areas. In either case, such operations were difficult to execute but
could, under favorable conditions, yield impressive results. Once the
guerrillas had been dispersed, smaller operations followed to further the
disintegration of the insurgents, although both the Americans and their
allies often had trouble making this shift in a timely manner.
In every insurgency U.S. advisers followed the guidance contained
in FM 100–5 and sought to establish defended villages and local
self-defense units to free the regular army for offensive operations,
to protect the people from guerrilla harassment, and to prevent those
same people from aiding the insurgents. Concern over the reputation
of paramilitary groups for lawlessness and brutality, however, led the
Army to move cautiously on creating such entities, lest their excesses
undermine the goals of pacification. But U.S. advisers had very little
control over indigenous governments on this score, especially since
many governments organized paramilitary forces without American
material aid. Consequently, the best the United States could do was
to urge indigenous authorities to impose tighter control and discipline
over the paramilitaries, and occasionally, as in Greece, to use the provision of material assistance as leverage to win such improvements.
Tactically, American advisers adhered to the old credo of finding,
fixing, and finishing the enemy that had guided U.S. soldiers since the
Indian wars.69 They consistently tried to wean their counterparts from
relying too heavily on fire support, believing that close infantry action
represented the only way to destroy the enemy effectively. Careful
reconnaissance, rapid deployments, vigorous attacks, and relentless
pursuits were the principal methods by which the Army hoped to defeat
the guerrillas in the field. Consequently, American advisers emphasized
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the basics of infantry warfare—small-unit tactics, marksmanship, fire
discipline, patrolling and reconnaissance, ambush and counterambush
drills, night movements, and march and camp security. Although they
recognized that mobility was essential, they preferred to inculcate oldfashioned foot mobility rather than to foster a dependency on trucks
or expensive, “high tech” fixes like parachutists and helicopters. U.S.
soldiers were less united, however, with respect to the advisability of
creating specially trained counterguerrilla units, endorsing such initiatives in Greece, the Philippines, and to a lesser extent South Korea,
while ultimately deciding against the incorporation of specialist units
into their own force structure during the Korean War.
The overall consistency with which the United States Army
approached the insurgencies of 1945–1954 indicates the existence
within the officer corps, in practice if not on paper, of a set of commonly held assumptions and responses to wars of this type. These responses
represented less a fixed doctrine than a conglomeration of tools bound
loosely together by a set of concepts and principles taken from a variety
of sources—conventional military doctrine, indigenous methods, Axis
precedents, American ideology and foreign policy, and more generally
from certain broad continuities in Western political, legal, and cultural
thought. During the 1950s, the Army began to translate and interpret
this loose body of thought and experience into a formal, written doctrine for counterinsurgency.
Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, 2 vols. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1981–1990), 1:66–67, 201–04, 350–67, 375–79, and 2:247; Allan
Millett, “Understanding Is Better Than Remembering: The Korean War, 1945–1954,”
Dwight D. Eisenhower Lectures in War and Peace (Manhattan: Kansas State University,
1997); HQ, Far East Command (FEC), History of the U.S. Army Forces in Korea, vol.
3, pt. 3, pp. 18–24, copy in CMH.
Quote from FEC, History of U.S. Army Forces in Korea, vol. 3, pt. 3, p. 17.
Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:280; Despatch, Seoul 389 to State, 15 Apr 50,
sub: Guerrilla Strength and Activity, 658644, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
John Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea, 1948–50: The Local Setting of the
Korean War” (Ph.D. diss., University of Delaware, 1982), pp. 321–22, 345–48;
Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:238–40, 282–83; Msg, Seoul 706 to State,
8 Nov 49, sub: Guerrilla Raid on Chinju, 612081, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Jon
Halliday and Bruce Cumings, Korea, The Unknown War (New York: Pantheon,
1988), p. 34. For background on the organization of the guerrilla movement, see Fred
Barton, Operational Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in South Korea, ORO–T–25
(FEC) (Chevy Chase, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University,
1952); W. Phillips Davison and Jean Hungerford, North Korean Guerrilla Units,
RM–550 (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1951); Aerospace Studies Institute, Guerrilla
Warfare and Airpower in Korea, 1950–1953 (Maxwell Air Force Base [AFB], Ala.:
Air University, 1964).
John Lord et al., A Study of Rear Area Security Measures (Washington, D.C.:
Special Operations Research Office, American University, 1965), p. 116; Memo, Lt Gen
Hodge for Lt Gen Wedemeyer, c. 1946, sub: Joint Korean-American Conference, box
83, U.S. Army Forces in Korea (USFIK), RG 332, NARA.
Robert Sawyer, Military Advisors in Korea: KMAG in Peace and War, Army
Historical Series (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1962), pp.
15, 26; Allan Millett, “Captain James H. Hausman and the Formation of the Korean
Army, 1945–1950,” Armed Forces and Society 23 (Summer 1997): 503–39; Riley
Sunderland and Marshall Andrews, Guerrilla Operations in South Korea, 1945–53, in
HERO, Isolating the Guerrilla, 2:262; Samuel Sampson, Training Mission of Officers
Assigned to the Korean Military Advisory Group (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry
School, 1952–53), p. 7.
Ltrs, Maj Gen Orlando Ward, CG, 6th Inf Div, to Col Rothwell H. Brown, Comdr,
20th Inf, 6 Feb 48 and 10 Mar 48, Rothwell H. Brown Papers, MHI; Rpt, U.S. Military
Advisory Group Korea (KMAG), Ofc of the Chief, 15 Oct 49, sub: G–3 Summary, sec.
I, an. 7, pp. 1–2, 091 Korea, 1949–50, P&O, RG 319, NARA; Ltr, Brig Gen William L.
Roberts, Ch, KMAG, to Maj Gerald E. Larson, Senior Adviser, ROK 8th Div, 4 May 50,
333, KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
Rpt, FEC Intel Sum 2704, 3 Feb 50, 633512; Despatch, Seoul 325 to State, 1 Apr
50, sub: Formation of Police Battalions, with atch, 655899. Both in ID, G–2, RG 319,
Quote from Rpt, KMAG, G–2, n.d., sub: Guerrilla Activity for the Period Ending 19
Dec 51, p. 3, and see also pp. 4–5, 950126, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA. For an account of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the Cheju-do rebellion, see John Merrill, “The Cheju-do Rebellion,” Journal of Korean
Studies 2 (1980): 139–98.
For examples of government terror, see Briefing Paper, National Police Force, atch
to Provisional Military Advisory Group (PMAG), Extension of Notes, Data on Korean
Security Forces for Mr. Kenneth C. Royall, Secretary of the Army, 1949, 091 Korea,
1949–50, P&O, RG 319, NARA; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” pp. 236–38,
255, 265, 357–59; Despatch, Seoul 788 to State, 10 Dec 49, sub: Summary of Political
Affairs of the Republic of Korea, November 1949, p. 5, 620368, ID, G–2, RG 319,
NARA; MFR, U.S. Adviser to the Director, Uniform Bureau, Korean National Police, 3
Aug 48, sub: Beating and Torture Cases, box 83, USAFIK, RG 332, NARA.
First quote from Ltr, Brig Gen William L. Roberts to Maj Gen Charles L. Bolte,
19 Aug 49, 091 Korea, P&O 1949–50, RG 319, NARA. Second quote from KMAG,
Advisers’ Handbook, 1949, p. 4, KMAG, RG 338, NARA. Memos, Roberts for All
Advisers with Regiments and Divisions, 21 Mar 50, sub: Reporting Violations of
Standing Orders, and Tubb for American Advisers, 3 May 50, sub: Special Subject for
Korean Army. Both in 353, KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
Quotes from Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” pp. 300–301, and see also pp.
331, 358–61. Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:403, 472; Despatches, Pusan 27 to
State, 23 Jul 52, sub: Guerrilla Movement in South Korea (hereafter cited as Pusan 27),
Incl 1, p. 27, 1092486, and Seoul 788 to State, 10 Dec 49, sub: Summary of Political
Affairs of the Republic of Korea, November 1949, pp. 14–16, 620368. Both in ID, G–2,
RG 319, NARA.
Quote from Rpt, Army G–2, 19 Jan 50, sub: General Survey of Guerrilla Activity in
South Korea, p. 6, Historians files, CMH. USAFIK G–2 Periodic Rpt 1093, 23 Mar 49,
p. 2, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” pp. 257, 357–59;
Incl 1 to Despatch 720, Seoul to State, 12 Nov 49, sub: Guerrilla Raid on Chinju;
Governor Submits Resignation, 612082, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Cumings, Origins
of the Korean War, 2:289; Memo, HQ, Korean Army, for All Commanders, 27 Apr 51,
sub: Military Conduct Toward Civilians, KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
Roberts had lobbied for heavier equipment once the possibility became clear that
the ROK Army would have to be prepared to fight North Korea’s conventional forces,
but Washington denied his request fearing Rhee might invade the North. Cumings,
Origins of the Korean War, 2:264, 397–98, 400; Sawyer, Military Advisors in Korea, p.
186; Memo, Roberts for All American Advisers with Units in the Field, 24 Aug 49, and
Ltr, Roberts to Lt Col Walden J. Alexander, Senior Adviser, ROK 5th Division, 3 Sep
49, both in 333, KMAG, RG 338, NARA; KMAG, Advisers’ Handbook, 1949, p. 3. Mil
Hist Ofc, HQ, U.S. Army, Japan, United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic
of Korea, pt. 4, KMAG’s Wartime Experiences, 11 July 1951 to 27 July 1953, n.d., pp.
339–40, CMH (hereafter cited as KMAG’s Wartime Experiences).
Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:286–88, 389, 573. For Japanese counterguerrilla techniques, see Lincoln Lee, The Japanese Army in North China, 1937–1941
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1975); Gene Hanrahan, Japanese Operations
Against Guerrilla Forces, ORO–T–268 (Chevy Chase, Md.: Operations Research
Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1954); U.S. Army Forces, Far East, Military Studies
on Manchuria, bk. 4, Historical Observations of Various Operations in Manchuria, ch.
9, Bandits and Inhabitants (1955), CMH.
Quote from Despatch, Seoul 788 to State, 10 Dec 49, sub: Summary of Political
Affairs of the Republic of Korea, November 1949, p. 13. Cumings, Origins of the
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
Korean War, 2:244, 247–48, 257, 271, 289; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” p.
243; FEC Intel Sum 2984, 10 Nov 50, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Pusan 27, Incl 1, pp.
7, 22; Virgil Ney, Notes on Guerrilla War: Principles and Practices (Washington, D.C.:
Command Publications, 1961), p. 118; HQ, Eighth U.S. Army in Korea (EUSAK),
Enemy Tactics, 1951, p. 119, box 73, USARPAC History files, RG 338, NARA (hereafter cited as EUSAK, Enemy Tactics).
Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:256; U.S. Army Intelligence Center,
History of the Counter Intelligence Corps, n.d., pp. 140–41, CMH; Memo, Roberts for
All American Advisers with Units in the Field, 24 Aug 49; Merrill, “Internal Warfare
in Korea,” pp. 243, 353; Pusan 27, Incl 1, p. 20; Despatch 720, Seoul to State, 12 Nov
49, sub: Guerrilla Raid on Chinju; Governor Submits Resignation; Rpt, KMAG, Weekly
Intel Sum, 13 Feb 52, p. 3, 950126, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
Rpt, PMAG, 22 Nov 48, sub: Weekly Activities of PMAG, KMAG, RG 338,
NARA; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” p. 127.
First quoted words from Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” p. 351. Second
quoted words from Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:399. For other examples of
“search and destroy” phraseology, see FEC, History of U.S. Army Forces in Korea, vol.
3, pt. 3, p. 17; KMAG’s Wartime Experiences, p. 367; Special Activities Gp Command
Rpt, Jan 51, Infantry School Library, Fort Benning, Ga.
Quote from Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” pp. 253–54. Even during
Ratkiller, perhaps the most effective encirclement of the war, as many as 60 percent of
the guerrillas were thought to have escaped. Pusan 27, Incl 1, p. 22.
Walter Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, United States Army in the Korean
War (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1966), p. 347; KMAG’s
Wartime Experiences, pp. 367–69; Guerrilla Warfare and Airpower, p. 56.
Sunderland and Andrews, Guerrilla Operations in South Korea, pp. 257–58; MFR,
23 Jul 48, sub: Opinion of the Settlement of the Cheju Situation: 23 Jul 48, at Cheju-do
by Koh Pyung Uk, Superintendent of National Police Department, box 83, USAFIK,
RG 332, NARA.
Despatch, Seoul 389 to State, 15 Apr 50, sub: Guerrilla Strength and Activity; Rpt,
USAFIK G–2, 23 Mar 49, sub: Military Estimate of Situation in Korea, p. 14, 543752,
ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
Sawyer, Military Advisors in Korea, p. 76; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,”
pp. 362, 413–14.
Quote from Office, Chief, Army Field Forces, Training Bulletin 2, 9 Nov 50, p.
7, in 350.9 AFF Training Bulletins, CMH. Allan David, ed., Battleground Korea, the
Story of the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division (1951); EUSAK, Enemy Tactics, pp. 113–14;
“Guerrilla Warfare and Airpower,” pp. 34–47; John Beebe, “Beating the Guerrilla,”
Military Review 35 (December 1955): 10; HQ, Far East Command, Issue 9, Supplement,
Enemy Documents Korean Operations, 10 Apr 51, Historians files, CMH; Barton,
Operational Aspects, pp. 19, 26–27; Paul Hughes, Battle in the Rear: Lessons from
Korea (Student paper, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, CGSC, 1988),
pp. 7–8.
Lord, Rear Area Security, p. 118.
Roy Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, United States Army in
the Korean War (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1961), pp.
722–28; Halliday and Cumings, Unknown War, p. 146; FEC Intel Sum 3001, 27 Nov 50,
p. 2-b, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
FEC Intel Sum 3071, 5 Feb 51, p. M-3; Pusan 27, Incl 1, pp. 2, 15; Lord, Rear
Area Security, p. 121.
In Operation Ratkiller, Van Fleet took advantage of winter weather and a relative
lull at the front to launch a major counterguerrilla drive in southwest Korea. The operation, which lasted from December 1951 to March 1952, was multiphased and involved
several encirclements and repeated sweeps using approximately 30,000 South Korean
Army, police, and paramilitary soldiers. Paik Sun Yup, From Pusan to Panmunjom
(Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1992), p. 183.
Guerrilla Warfare and Airpower, pp. 42–43; Paik, From Pusan to Panmunjom,
p. 184. The UN allocated ten fighter-bomber sorties per day for Ratkiller. William
Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare” (Student thesis, AWC, 1955), pp. 26–27; DeWitt
Smith, Counterguerrilla Operations: Can We Learn from Task Force Paik? (Student
paper, AWC, 1966).
Richard Weinert, The U.S. Army and Military Assistance in Korea Since 1951,
CMH–132, U.S. Army Center of Military History, n.d., p. III-9, CMH; “KMAG’s
Wartime Experiences,” pp. 110–13, 367–70; Pusan 27, Incl 1, p. 5.
Most of the 10,000 prisoners taken during Ratkiller were civilians, 60 percent
of whom were eventually classed as guerrilla sympathizers. Rpt, KMAG, Weekly
Intel Sums, 19 Dec 51, p. 1, and 10 Jan 52, p. 2, both in 950126, ID, G–2, RG 319,
NARA; Pusan 27, Incl 1, pp. 7, 14; Merrill, “Internal Warfare in Korea,” pp. 352–56;
Appleman, South to the Naktong, p. 478; Despatch, Pusan 177 to State, 25 May 51,
sub: Anti-Guerrilla Activities of ROK 8th Division in the South Kyongsang and Cholla
Provinces, 812113, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Rpt, KMAG, Guerrilla Activity for the
Period Ending 14 Nov 51, p. 4, KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
David, Battleground Korea.
Hughes, Battle in the Rear, pp. 9–11; William Hacker, G–2 Section, Logistical
Command (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53); HQ, EUSAK, Special
Problems in the Korean Conflict, 1952, pp. 98, 106–07, CMH; History of the Korean
Communications Zone, n.d., USARPAC History file, box 339, RG 338, NARA; 772d
Military Police Battalion, SOP [Standing Operating Procedure] for Railway Security,
1953, Infantry School Library.
Robert Rigg, “Get Guerrilla-Wise,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 1
(September 1950): 11.
X Corps Command Rpt, Jan 51, pp. 24–25, box 33, USARPAC History file, RG
338, NARA; Appleman, South to the Naktong, pp.721–28, 740.
Quoted words from X Corps, Big X in Korea, 1954, p. 19, and see also pp. 20–21,
copy in CMH. MFR, HQ, IX Corps, 30 Oct 50, sub: Resume of Operations, IX Corps
War Diary, Oct 50, box 1766; 25th Inf Div History, Oct 50, bk. 1, pp. 1–14, 23; IX Corps
War Diary, 1–31 Oct 50, bk. 1, p. 3, box 1761; 2d Inf Div G–3 Opns Rpt, Sep–Dec 50.
All in RG 407, NARA. Richard Harris et al., Rear Area Operations, Korean Conflict,
Rear Area Security, October 1950 (Staff Group B, Section 1, Division A, CGSC course,
May 1984), CGSC–N–20326.15, CGSC Library, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.; Richard
Pullen, ed., 25th Infantry Division, Tropic Lightning in Korea (Atlanta, Ga.: Albert
Love, n.d.); Max Dolcater, ed., 3d Infantry Division in Korea (Tokyo: Toppan Printing
Co., 1953), pp. 67–86.
Harris, Rear Area Operations.
Ross Barrett, The Role of the Ground Liaison Officer with a Tactical Control
Group and Close Air Support (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53), pp.
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
11–12; Harris, Rear Area Operations; David, Battleground Korea; Appleman, South to
the Naktong, p. 721.
EUSAK, Special Problems, p. 98.
Quote from 25th Inf Div History, Oct 50, bk. 1, p. 45. Agenda Prepared by Army
Field Forces Observer Team 5, FECOM, Aug 51, p. 171, 319.1, Army Field Force
Reports, CMH.
Quote from Jean Moenk, Training During the Korean Conflict, 1950–1954, Office
of the Historian, U.S. Army Transportation Command, 1962, p. 22, and see also pp.
9–10, 23, copy in CMH. EUSAK, Special Problems, pp. 57–58; Hughes, Battle in the
Rear, pp. 18–19.
Lynn Montross, Cavalry of the Sky: The Story of Marine Corps Combat Helicopters
(New York: Harper & Bros., 1954), pp. 172–73, 178; Homer Wright, Ambush Tactics as
Applied by the Chinese and North Korean Forces Against U.S. Troops in Korea (Student
paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53), pp. 13–15.
Waller Booth, “The Pattern That Got Lost,” Army 31 (April 1981): 62–64; David
Gray, “Black and Gold Warriors: United States Army Rangers During the Korean War”
(Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1992), pp. 35, 43, 94–95; John Provost, “Nomads
of the Battlefield: Ranger Companies in the Korean War, 1950–1951” (Master’s thesis,
CGSC, 1989), pp. 3–5, 20–21, 31, 35–38; David Hogan, Raiders or Elite Infantry? The
Changing Role of the U.S. Army Rangers from Dieppe to Grenada (Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 112.
X Corps, G–2, Enemy Tactics, Bulletin 2, c. Spring 1951, USARPAC History, box
79, RG 338, NARA; James Olson, Organization and Use of an Anti-Guerrilla Unit in
Korea During the Period November 1950 to March 1951 (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry
School, 1952–53); EUSAK, Special Problems, p. 106; X Corps Command Rpts, Jan
51, p. 25, and Apr 51, p. 57, both in box 33, USARPAC History file, RG 338, NARA;
Special Activities Gp, Command Rpts for Dec 50 and Jan, Feb, and Mar 51, Infantry
School Library.
Hogan, Raiders or Elite Infantry, pp. 122–32; EUSAK, Special Problems, pp.
Quote from HQ, EUSAK, Enemy Tactics, 1951, p. 118. Memo, HQ, EUSAK, for
Distribution, 24 Jun 51, sub: Criminal Offenses, KMAG, RG 338, NARA; Cumings,
Origins of the Korean War, 2:690–96; Harris, Rear Area Operations; Hughes, Battle in
the Rear, pp. 13–14; Office, Chief, Army Field Forces, Training Bulletin 1, 8 Sep 50, p.
6, 350.9 AFF Training Bulletins, CMH; Appleman, South to the Naktong, p. 478; Memo,
Lt Col Leon F. Lavoie, Comdr, 92d Armd Field Arty Bn, for Comdr, X Corps Arty, 22
Nov 50, sub: Report, Special Operation ‘Sunshine,’ X Corps War Diary, Nov 50; Ltr,
Maj Gen Laurence R. Keiser, CG, 2d Inf Div, to CG, 2d Inf Div Arty, et al., 2 Oct 50,
G–3 Operations Orders, 2d Inf Div, Sep–Oct 50; 25th Inf Div History, Oct 50, bk. 1, p.
14. Last three in RG 407, NARA.
First quote from Barton, Operational Aspects, p. 64. Second quote from Memo,
FEC for Adj Gen, 17 Nov 52, sub: Technical Memorandum Paramilitary Warfare in
South Korea (FEC), “Operational Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in South Korea,” p.
3, in 040 ORO, 1952, RG 319, NARA. Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:687,
690, 706; Carl Peterson, The 1st Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, in
Anti-Guerrilla Operations in the Mountains East of Pyongyang, North Korea, November
1950 (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1952–53), p. 8; Despatch, Seoul 389 to
State, 15 Apr 50, sub: Guerrilla Strength and Activity.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Alfred Hausrath, Civil Affairs in the Cold War, ORO–SP–151 (Bethesda, Md.:
Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1961), pp. 59–60; Daugherty
and Andrews, Historical Experience with Civil Affairs, pp. 446–47; Thomas Teraji,
History of the Korean War, vol. 3, pt. 5, Civil Affairs/Civil Assistance Problems
(Military History Section, UN Command and HQ, Far East Command, c. 1951), pp.
1–8, CMH; “The Second Year in Korea,” Army Information Digest 7 (November 1952):
27; James Mrazek, “The Fifth Staff Officer,” Military Review 36 (March 1957): 47–51.
Coordinating a multinational civil affairs and relief effort in a sovereign country during
a period of intense disruption was no easy task, and the American-UN effort experienced
many difficulties. Carlton Wood et al., Civil Affairs Relations in Korea, ORO–T–2464
(Baltimore, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1954); Darwin
Stolzenbach and Henry Kissinger, Civil Affairs in Korea, 1950–1951, ORO–T–184
(Baltimore, Md.: Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1952).
Rpt, HQ, EUSAK, 8 Jan 51, sub: Conference Notes, box 20, Matthew Ridgway
Papers, MHI.
Quoted words from Agenda Prepared by Army Field Forces Observer Team 5,
FECOM, Aug 51, p. 1. Pusan 27, p. 3; CINCFE Directive, 5 Jul 50, reissued as Admin
Order 12, HQ, Korean Army, 18 Nov 50, KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from Memo, Ridgway for CGs, I, IX, X Corps and Republic of Korea Army, 2
Jan 51, box 17, Ridgway Papers. Memo for Ridgway, 5 Jan 51, sub: Notes of Conference
at HQ EUSAK, box 20, Ridgway Papers; Special Activities Group, Command Rpt, Jan
51; 25th Inf Div History, Oct 50, bk. 1, p. 44, RG 407, NARA; Summary for 1000 Hour
Briefing, 26 Jan 51, 1 Feb 51, and 4 Feb 51, in KMAG, RG 338, NARA.
First quote from Ltr, Almond to Ridgway, 16 Jan 51. Second and third quotes from
Ltr, Almond to Ridgway, 25 Jan 51. Both in box 17, Ridgway Papers, MHI.
Msg, Barr to Almond, 18 Jan 51, Miscellaneous Radios CG X Corps, Korean War
General files, X Corps, Edward M. Almond Papers, MHI.
First two quotes from Msg, Almond to Barr, 19 Jan 51, Miscellaneous Radios CG
X Corps, Korean War General files, X Corps, Almond Papers. Third and fourth quotes
from Robert Black, Rangers in Korea (New York: Ivy Books, 1989), pp. 46–48.
Quote from Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, 2:755. Montross, Cavalry of the
Sky, p. 173.
Barton, Operational Aspects, pp. 12–14.
Rpt, Ofc, Chief of Psychological Warfare, 10 Nov 53, sub: Psychological Warfare
Operations Deficiencies Noted in Korea—A Study, p. 72, 091 Korea, Office, Chief
of Special Warfare, 1951–54, RG 319, NARA; Sunderland and Andrews, Guerrilla
Operations in South Korea, pp. 257–58, 263.
FEC Intel Sum 2246, 28 Oct 48, p. 3, 504233, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA;
Handwritten Note, 1 Feb 50, atch to Memo, Hussey for G–2, KMAG, 28 Jan 50, sub:
G–2 Report, 319.1, KMAG, RG 338, NARA; Pusan 27, Incl 1, p. 5; Despatch, Pusan
177 to State, 25 May 51, sub: Anti-Guerrilla Activities of ROK 8th Division in the South
Kyongsang and Cholla Provinces.
First quote from Rpt, Army G–2, 19 Jan 50, sub: General Survey of Guerrilla
Activity in South Korea, p. 6. Second quote from Rpt, Army G–2, 18 Jan 52, sub:
Weekly Intel Rpt 152, p. 39, and see also p. 37, Historians files, CMH.
In addition to the 300 guerrillas who surrendered due to UN propaganda during Ratkiller, another 1,400 other prisoners (roughly 10 percent of the total number
of prisoners taken during the operation) acknowledged that the leaflets lowered their
The Korean Civil War, 1945–1954
morale. Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare,” p. 11; Rpt, KMAG, Weekly Intel Sums, 6
Feb 52, p. 1, and 13 Feb 52, p. 3, 950126, ID, G–2, RG 319, NARA; Paik, From Pusan
to Panmunjom, pp. 188–89; Sunderland and Andrews, Guerrilla Operations in South
Korea, pp. 259–60.
For example, propaganda during Operation Trample (December 1953–July 1954)
focused squarely on the people: only 3.75 million propaganda leaflets and a portion
of the 1,700 hours of loudspeaker broadcasts were aimed at the guerrillas, while 8.95
million leaflets, 10.6 million news sheets, 15 motion picture shows, and the remaining
broadcast hours were directed at the population. Qtrly Hist Rpt, KMAG, Jan–Mar 54, 26
Jul 54, p. 13; Qtrly Hist Rpt, KMAG, Apr–Jun 54, 5 Oct 54, pp. 6–7, 9. Both in KMAG,
RG 338, NARA.
Quote from Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare,” p. 10, and see also p. 11. Beebe,
“Beating the Guerrilla,” p. 16. Communist guerrillas sometimes welcomed American
leaflet drops, using the sheets either as toilet paper or as supplies for their own propaganda machine, printing Communist slogans on the back of allied leaflets and issuing
them to villagers. Such activity compelled the allies to print two-sided leaflets. Rpt, HQ,
Korean Communications Zone, Intel Sum 75, 31 Jan 54, p. 4, 950794, ID, G–2, RG
319, NARA; Barton, Operational Aspects, pp. 29, 40; Rpt, Ofc, Chief of Psychological
Warfare, 10 Nov 53, sub: Psychological Warfare Operations Deficiencies Noted in
Korea—A Study, pp. 71–72.
Of South Korea’s 21.5 million population, 2.5 million were refugees and 5 million
more were indigent. FRUS, 1952–54, 15:1245–49.
Quotes from FRUS, 1952–54, 15:1680, and see also 1245–49, 1797–98. When
a 1952 study commissioned by the Army criticized the allies for trying to defeat the
insurgency by military measures alone, Far East Command conceded the advantages
of a combined political, economic, and military approach but noted that the massive
socioeconomic dislocation caused by the war, when coupled with inadequate financial
resources and incomplete cooperation on the part of the Rhee government, limited what
could be done. Memo, FEC for Adj Gen, 17 Nov 52, sub: Technical Memorandum
Paramilitary Warfare in South Korea (FEC), “Operational Aspects of Paramilitary
Warfare in South Korea,” p. 2; Barton, Operational Aspects, pp. 4–5; Rpt, HQ, Korean
Communications Zone, Intel Sum 81, 16 Mar 54, pp. 1–2, 6950794, ID, G–2, RG 319,
NARA; Donald Howard, “Anti-Guerrilla Operations in Asia” (Student thesis, AWC,
1956), p. 41; Lord, Rear Area Security, p. 135.
For background, see Andrew Birtle, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency
Operations Doctrine, 1860–1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military
History, 1998), pp. 249–54.
American support was never unconditional, as Fulgencio Batista found to his detriment when in 1959 the United States stood by and permitted Fidel Castro to overthrow
the Cuban dictator. Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, p. 226.
Quote from Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, p. 229. Merrill, “Internal Warfare in
Korea,” p. 175.
FM 27–5, United States Army and Navy Manual of Civil Affairs Military
Government, 1947, pp. 9–10.
Bohannan, “Antiguerrilla Operations,” p. 20; Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare,”
pp. 1, 32–33. Compare the modern concept with Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles’ formula for
counter-Indian warfare, as found in Birtle, Counterinsurgency Doctrine, p. 69.
The Development of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine
While American soldiers abroad cobbled together impromptu measures to fight the spate of insurgencies that erupted after 1945, back
home the U.S. Army took its first steps toward developing a formal
counterguerrilla doctrine. Finding a way to defeat the ongoing insurgencies was not the primary impulse for the effort. Rather, the driving force
behind this, as well as most other defense initiatives during the early
years of the Cold War, was the prospect of a major war with the Soviet
Union. Since the Soviets had successfully employed partisans against
Germany during World War II, U.S. Army planners fully expected that
they would do so in any future conflict with the United States. Prudence
dictated that the Army prepare for such a possibility.
In the late 1940s Army Field Forces was in charge of generating
doctrine, but there was no fixed system for its development. Sometimes
Army Field Forces assigned particularly knowledgeable individuals to
write doctrine in their area of expertise. In other cases, it formed boards
or committees. Most of the work was performed at Army branch schools,
with each school writing manuals applicable to its branch of service. In
the case of guerrilla warfare, the Army chose to assign the job of writing
initial doctrine to a single individual, Lt. Col. Russell W. Volckmann.
Russell Volckmann was well qualified to write about irregular
operations. A 1934 Military Academy graduate, Volckmann had been
stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded in December
1941. Rather than surrender with the rest of the Filipino-American
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
forces in the spring of 1942, he escaped from Bataan and made his
way to the mountains of northern Luzon. Over the next three years he
fought behind the lines, organizing a large guerrilla force that eventually helped liberate the Philippines. Consequently, when Army Field
Forces decided that it needed someone to develop doctrine on irregular
warfare, Volckmann seemed a logical choice. In 1949 the Army sent
him to the Infantry School at Fort Benning to write a pair of manuals
on guerrilla and counterguerrilla warfare—the first U.S. Army manuals devoted entirely to these subjects. Published in 1951, these manuals arrived too late to influence the Chinese and Greek civil wars but
were employed during the later stages of the Korean and Philippine
conflicts. They became the basis of all future Army counterguerrilla
Sources of Doctrine
In formulating counterguerrilla doctrine during the late 1940s and
early 1950s, Volckmann and subsequent doctrinal writers drew from
several sources. Past American experience in counterguerrilla operations played a role, although in a general way, because few soldiers
had any detailed knowledge of these events in the Army’s history.
Occupation duties during and immediately after World War II were
perhaps more influential, and many of the principles that eventually
emerged in the new manuals reflected the Army’s recent experiences
with military government. Perhaps most influential, however, were the
precedents established by the Axis powers in combating Allied resistance movements.
Axis experience, and the lessons derived therefrom, reached
American doctrine writers in a variety of ways. Some, like Volckmann,
had experienced Axis countermeasures firsthand as members of Allied
partisan units. A more indirect method of transmission occurred as
a result of America’s involvement in the postwar insurgencies. Most
of the countries afflicted with Communist rebellions after 1945 had
been occupied by the Axis during the war, and their newly reconstituted armies were staffed by men who had served either in Axis
collaborationist units or in wartime resistance movements. Not surprisingly, these men applied their knowledge of Axis methods during
the post-1945 civil wars, and American observers picked up on their
To such personal and indirect modes of transmission the Army
added deliberate and direct study of Axis methods, most notably
those of Nazi Germany. During the war the Allies had collected and
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
disseminated much information
about German antipartisan techniques. This effort had not been
a mere academic exercise, for
the Allies believed that Germany
might resort to guerrilla warfare
to resist an Allied occupation.
Since the Allies did not have any
immediate experience in counterguerrilla warfare themselves, they
published doctrinal pamphlets
prescribing German counterguerrilla techniques should Adolf
Hitler’s threatened “Werewolf ”
guerrilla movement come to life.
This approach continued into the
Colonel Volckmann in the
postwar era when, in November
Philippines at the end of
1947, an Army report specifically
World War II
called for the study of German
counterguerrilla methods as a vehicle for the development of American
doctrine. Volckmann adopted this methodology, using not only the
Allied pamphlets, but a U.S. Army translation of the German Army’s
basic counterguerrilla treatise, the 1944 manual Fighting the Guerrilla
The postwar Army added to this body of knowledge through an
intensive historical program. By 1949 U.S. Army, Europe, had sponsored 721 historical studies written by German officers about their
wartime experiences. Twenty-one of these monographs were devoted
entirely to partisan and antipartisan warfare, while another fortyfour touched on these subjects in varying degrees. After the outbreak
of the Korean War, the chief of Army Field Forces, with the help
of the chief of military history, immediately distributed all of this
information to help commanders develop techniques to use against
Korean guerrillas.4 The Army followed up this release by producing
a special series of sixteen German-derived pamphlets that it distributed to every unit down to the battalion level. Two of the sixteen
were devoted to antiguerrilla operations, while another five touched
on the subject. The distribution of these reports, coupled with their
distillation in Army journals and curricular materials, ensured that
the lessons of Germany’s counterguerrilla operations during World
War II would exert a profound influence over American doctrine for
many years.5
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces
Based largely on this distillation of World War II experience,
Volckmann produced a draft counterguerrilla manual in May 1950. The
relevance of this document became immediately apparent when, the
following month, the Army found itself pitted against Communist guerrillas and infiltrators in South Korea. Because the Army’s doctrinal system would take some time to publish the urgently needed manual, the
Infantry School rushed the manuscript into print in September 1950 as
Special Text (ST) 31–20–1, “Operations Against Guerrilla Forces.” The
Army formally published Volckmann’s work as FM 31–20, Operations
Against Guerrilla Forces, five months later, in February 1951.
Recognizing that guerrilla warfare could take various forms, from
partisan activities during an otherwise conventional conflict to “a people’s war or revolution against existing authority,” Volckmann decided
to focus the manual on two types of situations. The first was conflicts
“conducted by irregular forces (supported by an external power) to
bring about a change in the social-political order of a country without
engaging it in a formal, declared war,” as had occurred in Greece and
South Korea prior to 1950. The second was operations conducted by
irregulars in conjunction with regular forces as part of a conventional
war, as had been practiced by the Soviet Union during World War II.
In both situations, Volckmann believed guerrillas required a secure
base or cross-border sanctuary, external material aid, and an extensive
clandestine network of intelligence agents, propagandists, organizers,
and support personnel. He also expressed the traditional view that guerrillas were rarely capable of achieving victory without the support of
regularly trained and equipped forces. Finally, he acknowledged that
guerrilla warfare had significant political and economic components
and that a guerrilla movement could not survive unless it had the support of the population, upon which it depended for recruits, labor, food,
shelter, and intelligence. This recognition played an important part in
FM 31–20’s counterguerrilla strategy.6
Volckmann asserted that preventing the formation of a guerrilla
movement was easier than destroying it. Consequently, the manual
advocated the creation of proactive political, economic, security, and
intelligence measures to redress the causes of discontent or, should
this fail, to suppress potential resistance before it could evolve into a
full-scale insurgency. The first step in any counterinsurgency program
was to formulate “a broad, realistic” politico-military plan that was
“based on a detailed analysis of a country, the national characteristics,
and the customs, beliefs, cares, hopes, and desires of the people.”
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
Such a plan, the manual stated, offered “the best solution to prevent,
minimize and combat guerrilla warfare,” for “political, administrative, economic, and military policies, intelligently conceived, wisely
executed, and supported by appropriate propaganda, will minimize the
possibility of a massive resistance movement.” This prescription was
one of the major lessons of Germany’s failed Russian campaign, as
Hitler’s oppressive and exploitative polices had fomented, rather than
quelled, resistance. FM 31–20 specifically enjoined its readers not to
make the same mistake.7
While acknowledging the importance of politics in guerrilla warfare, the manual refrained from prescribing a set political program
for counterinsurgency, both because Volckmann understood that each
situation was unique and because the formulation of policy was largely
outside the Army’s purview. The manual therefore confined its suggestions to general themes that had guided past American occupation,
pacification, and nation-building operations. Specifically, it enjoined
commanders to foster trust and goodwill between the Army and the
people by restoring law, order, and socioeconomic stability; by providing humanitarian relief; and by initiating programs to alleviate some of
the grievances that might fuel resistance movements.8
Although political measures were important, Volckmann maintained that intelligence, propaganda, and military force were equally
necessary. Good intelligence was fundamental to the formulation of
both pacification and military plans. FM 31–20 therefore advocated
giving commanders more intelligence and counterintelligence personnel than would normally be allocated for conventional operations.
Psychological warfare specialists were equally important to win over
the population against the irregulars, while military force provided
the fuel that propelled the entire campaign forward. Volckmann also
believed that commanders should employ sufficiently large and capable
forces, both to maximize the chance of a quick battlefield victory and
to overawe the opposition and avoid any perception of weakness that
might encourage further resistance.9
Armed with a comprehensive, coordinated politico-military plan
backed by adequate intelligence, psychological, and military resources,
a commander was ready to undertake pacification operations. For
analytical purposes, Volckmann introduced the concept of dividing the
theater of operations into three zones: areas controlled by the guerrillas,
areas controlled by the government, and the contested areas that usually
lay between the first two zones. Under the normal sequence of events
prescribed by the manual, a commander would move his troops into a
contested or guerrilla-controlled zone, establish bases, and inaugurate
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
necessary security measures. He would next erect a military government according to standard American doctrine, enacting political,
economic, financial, and propaganda measures designed to restore an
atmosphere of normalcy and redress certain grievances. If appropriate,
commanders could also institute an amnesty program.10
Throughout this process, the manual stressed the importance
of maintaining continuity in both policy and personnel. Continuity
of policy was important lest frequent shifts confuse or unsettle the
inhabitants. Continuity in personnel was necessary so that the soldiers
would become fully acclimated to the local political and military situation. Rotating troops before they had a chance to gain and utilize
this knowledge would be self-defeating, a lesson the Germans had
learned in Europe and that Volckmann himself had observed when,
as a guerrilla commander in the Philippines, he had profited from
Japanese troop rotations. Also drawing from personal experience,
Volckmann noted how guerrillas benefited when regional commanders failed to coordinate their actions, and he urged his readers not
to create situations in which guerrillas could evade counterguerrilla
operations in one sector simply by crossing an administrative boundary into another.11
Once the army had occupied an area and established politicomilitary measures to assert government authority, the stage was set
for undertaking military operations. FM 31–20 set three objectives
for all counterguerrilla operations. The first was to isolate the guerrillas from the civilian population from which they drew their support.
While sound policies and propaganda wooed the population, military
and police operations would break up the guerrilla bands and drive
them away from populated areas. Acknowledging that people were
often reluctant to assist authorities unless they were protected from
guerrilla retaliation, the manual urged the formation of village selfdefense groups. It also called for the imposition of controls over human
and materiel resources. Included in the commander’s arsenal were the
issuance of civilian identity cards; the imposition of restrictions on
movement, assembly, communications, and speech; curfews; village
searches; and regulations governing the possession and transportation
of certain commodities, most notably food, weapons, and medicines.
FM 31–20 also authorized commanders to evacuate entire areas to
sever the links between the local population and the guerrillas.12
Although Volckmann hoped that commanders would exercise
intelligence and restraint in imposing these measures, he did not
shrink from advocating more drastic actions, noting that “a firm, and
if necessary harsh, attitude is necessary in dealing with the guerrillas
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
and their civilian supporters. . . . Rigid military government control
and stern administrative measures are imposed on a populace collaborating with hostile guerrilla forces.”13 While eschewing Axis barbarity
and cautioning against excessive punishments that might drive previously uncommitted civilians into the enemy camp, the manual insisted
that “the rules of land warfare place upon the civilian population of
an occupied area the obligation to take no part whatsoever in hostilities and authorize the occupier to demand and enforce compliance.”
Among the more severe actions FM 31–20 permitted were the taking
of hostages, the placement of hostages on trains and in convoys to
deter attack, and retaliatory measures, including “reprisals against
civilians living near” the site of an ambush.14
None of these measures were new. The United States and many
other nations had availed themselves of these tools prior to 1939,
though this had not stopped the Allies from labeling similar Axis acts
as evidence of “totalitarianism.” Indeed, an article written to disseminate FM 31–20’s precepts during the Korean War ruefully admitted
that “we find ourselves somewhat embarrassed by our criticism of
such measures used by our enemies during World War II.” The uneasy
juxtaposition of severity and moderation in the manual created the
possibility of confusion among readers, yet it also reflected a fundamental truth about the nature of guerrilla warfare—that, no matter
how distasteful, repressive actions under certain circumstances could
be effective and, consequently, had to remain in the counterinsurgent’s
arsenal. FM 31–20’s mixed message with regard to the treatment
of a population under conditions of irregular warfare thus reflected
the symbiotic relationship that benevolence and repression had long
enjoyed in American military thought and practice.15
The second major counterinsurgent objective after isolating the
guerrillas from the population was to deny them access to external support. The manual did not offer any suggestions on how this goal could
be achieved, since the elimination of external aid was largely a function
of diplomatic, military, and geographical conditions specific to the conflict. Consequently, the manual proceeded to the third major objective
of a counterinsurgency campaign, destroying the guerrillas.
Operationally, FM 31–20 called for continuous, aggressive, offensive action and vigorous combat patrolling to break up, harass, and
ultimately destroy the guerrillas. It advised commanders to regard lulls
in guerrilla activity with suspicion, lest the enemy be given time to rest
and recover. It particularly cautioned against suspending operations
too early, advocating that areas be thoroughly cleansed before moving
troops on to the next sector targeted for pacification. Although FM
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
31–20 copied German security techniques for the protection of installations and lines of communications, it also embraced the German view
that purely defensive measures sapped Army morale and ceded the
initiative to the enemy, thereby allowing a guerrilla movement to grow.
Maintaining the offensive, in contrast, not only compelled the guerrillas
to look to their own survival, but enhanced the Army’s image among
the population, as experience had shown that people frequently sided
with whoever seemed to have the upper hand. The object of offensive
action in counterguerrilla warfare was thus not only the destruction of
the enemy’s combat forces, but also of his will and the will of his civilian supporters. The mere capture of terrain, on the other hand, was not
an objective, as guerrillas rarely accepted set-piece battles and easily
reinfiltrated areas captured by government forces once the regulars had
departed. Only by targeting the guerrillas and the elements that sustained them—their command and control system, their sources of food
and supply, and their clandestine network among the people—could the
counterinsurgent gain decisive results.16
Volckmann believed that basic military principles applied to
irregular warfare much as they did to conventional conflicts but that
doctrine and tactics had to be adapted to the circumstances at hand.
He further warned that “the scope and nature of a commander’s mission may include political and administrative aspects seldom encountered in normal operations. The methods and technique of combat
that commanders have been trained to apply within their parent
organizations may have to be modified or even disregarded.” Since
these adaptations would necessarily be situation specific, he did not
lay down fixed procedures, preferring instead to confine his discussion to general principles. He advocated obtaining mobility through
initiative, improvisation, and intelligent tailoring of forces, noting the
special advantages of airborne units and the great potential offered
by a newfangled machine, the helicopter. He advised commanders to
inculcate a spirit of alertness and observation in their men for intelligence, counterintelligence, and force protection purposes. He also
recommended the use of cover plans, deception, and security restrictions to prevent the enemy from learning about upcoming actions.
He suggested that counterinsurgents conduct operations at night, in
inclement weather, or along unanticipated avenues of approach for
similar reasons. Finally, he noted that in the search for mobility and
surprise, emphasis would naturally shift from large formations to
small, highly mobile units capable of operating with the dexterity,
speed, and stealth necessary to hunt elusive guerrilla bands across
varied terrain.17
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
Although conventional infantry units would doubtlessly form the
backbone of any counterguerrilla campaign, Volckmann believed that
elite antiguerrilla units would often prove more effective, and FM 31–20
urged commanders to supplement their regular infantry with such formations. Inspired by Germany’s antipartisan Jagdkommando units of World
War II, the manual described the organization, training, and functions of
a prototype counterguerrilla unit of roughly platoon size. Designed to
operate independently for prolonged periods, specially trained antiguerrilla units were to be devoid of impedimenta, armed with light, automatic weapons, and outfitted with plenty of radios in order to coordinate
dispersed operations, report enemy sightings, and request assistance.
Volckmann envisioned that these units would operate largely at night,
employing guerrilla tactics to raid, ambush, and harass the enemy. The
manual also suggested that antipartisan units occasionally masquerade as
guerrillas to deceive the irregulars and their civilian supporters.18
A second category of troops endorsed by the manual was the
indigenous unit. FM 31–20 encouraged U.S. commanders to use local
civilians as intelligence agents, propagandists, administrators, guides,
policemen, and special antiguerrilla troops. Care was required to screen
such personnel for enemy infiltrators and spies, but once trustworthy
natives had been found, they were invaluable, not only because they
freed U.S. troops for other duties, but because their familiarity with the
population, language, and terrain endowed them with a unique ability to uncover enemy guerrillas and their civilian supporters. Friendly
guerrillas were also useful, while the manual advised that clever policies and propaganda could be used to divide the population and pit rival
enemy bands against each other.19
With regard to the other combat arms, FM 31–20 had little to
say. Armor was useful in securing roads and convoys and in supporting offensive operations when terrain conditions permitted. Although
tanks might prove particularly demoralizing to untrained irregulars,
FM 31–20 cautioned that they must be accompanied by infantry, as
guerrillas often were adept at devising makeshift antitank devices.
The manual deemed reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft to be
especially valuable but stated that conventional methods for orchestrating air support would not be flexible enough to meet the demands of
counterguerrilla warfare, and it suggested ways in which the existing
air control system could be modified for counterguerrilla work. Finally,
FM 31–20 noted that the dispersed nature of guerrilla warfare and the
rugged terrain in which irregulars usually operated greatly limited the
usefulness of artillery in antiguerrilla operations. Flexibility, ingenuity,
and resourcefulness were required to overcome these obstacles. The
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
manual suggested that covert reconnaissance teams scout out possible
artillery positions so that the guns could deploy rapidly just prior to an
attack. Once established, artillery positions were to be laid out for allround defense, using fortifications and attached infantry to secure their
perimeters. Because of the limitations and hazards of ground movement and the problems that rough terrain posed to communications,
aircraft would be used to supply firing positions, to relay messages
between ground observers and artillery units, and to serve as airborne
fire direction centers.20
In addition to frequent small-unit patrolling, Volckmann envisioned
three types of offensive action—encirclement, attack, and pursuit. On
this subject he most closely followed the precepts laid down by the
German 1944 manual, copying not only the form and substance of
Wehrmacht tactical doctrine, but the illustrative diagrams as well. The
Germans had deemed encirclements—often executed on a large scale—
to be the best single method of bringing the guerrillas to battle, and the
U.S. Army agreed. Detailed planning, secrecy, and deception; efficient
communications; rapid movements; and adequate forces were required
if the Army was to surround the targeted area before the enemy learned
of the operation and fled. Encirclements were to be made in depth to
prevent enemy exfiltration, with the lead troops establishing defensive
positions immediately upon arrival on the line of encirclement to repel
breakout attempts.21
Once an area had been sealed, FM 31–20 offered commanders four
different ways to reduce the pocket, all of which were derived from
German practice. The first method, labeled “tightening the encirclement” (or “tightening the noose”), was to be used when the encircled
area was small and the enemy weak and consisted of a simultaneous
advance around the entire perimeter. The second, or “hammer and
anvil,” technique involved an advance by only a portion of the encircling forces, while the remaining elements waited for the guerrillas to
be driven upon their defensive positions, which were often established
along some barrier or obstacle. The third approach consisted of sending
one or more forces into the encircled area, splitting it into two or more
smaller pockets, which were then reduced piecemeal. Finally, the fourth
tactic, which was to be used when the guerrillas had established a
strong fortified position, employed a powerful assault force to overrun
the main guerrilla bastion. Once this had been achieved, the encircling
forces would advance to mop up the remaining resistance.22
Regardless of the means employed, once the encirclement had been
cast the subsequent reduction was to be performed methodically and
without haste. The Army would arrest and interrogate all civilians found
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
inside the targeted area. Successive waves of troops would comb every
possible hiding place for fugitives and hidden supplies. Meanwhile,
small patrols would keep the remaining guerrillas on the run, wearing
them down and increasing their vulnerability to psychological warfare
initiatives. Volckmann believed that prolonged, in-depth area control
measures such as these would ultimately produce more casualties on
the guerrillas than those inflicted by the front-line troops during the
initial encirclement, and consequently he deemed them critical to the
ultimate outcome of any operation.
While he considered encirclement to be the most effective tactic
in the counterguerrilla’s arsenal, Volckmann acknowledged that guerrilla elusiveness, difficult terrain, and shortages of time and manpower
often made encirclements impossible. He therefore offered the surprise
attack as a secondary tactic. Achieving surprise against wary guerrillas
was admittedly difficult, and Volckmann advocated using small parties
of scouts and native guides to locate and shadow the enemy, with the
remainder of the column moving up rapidly, usually at night, to launch
a surprise dawn assault. If possible, a single or double envelopment
would be used, as the goal was to destroy the guerrillas, not to disperse
them or to capture ground. Since irregulars usually lacked supporting
weapons, Volckmann directed the attacker to close with the enemy
more rapidly than would be customary against regular forces in conventional combat.23
Should any guerrillas escape from either an encirclement or an
attack, FM 31–20 called for pursuit, the third form of offensive operations. Antiguerrilla formations and small units of regulars linked by
radio to mobile reserves and aerial and artillery support were to hound
the guerrillas relentlessly. Contact, once gained, was never to be lost,
until such time as the guerrillas had been run to earth. Only in this
manner could the Army achieve the ultimate destruction of an irregular
Having presented a broad operational framework and suggested
some specific techniques, Volckmann offered some cautionary advice.
He warned that guerrillas often scavenged supplies from their enemies,
and he urged soldiers to police their camps and to exercise strict supply discipline to prevent materiel from falling into guerrilla hands. He
also alerted commanders about the unusual morale problems associated
with guerrilla warfare. Counterguerrilla service was especially enervating because it involved placing small detachments of soldiers in relatively isolated locations for prolonged periods amid a population with
whom the soldiers could neither readily communicate nor fully trust.
Frustrated by their inability to come to grips with an elusive opponent
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
and discouraged by the seemingly endless routine of garrison duty and
fruitless patrols, soldiers might become abusive toward civilians or lose
the aggressive, offensive edge called for by doctrine. To avoid these
pitfalls, Volckmann urged commanders to inculcate strong leadership
traits among their junior leaders and to initiate troop indoctrination
programs. He also recommended that commanders adopt policies that
kept troops in one location long enough for the soldiers to operate with
intelligence, skill, and confidence.25
Operations Against Guerrilla Forces represented a major milestone in the evolution of U.S. Army doctrine. By blending traditional
American concepts with German military practices, World War II
lessons, and some fresh insights, the manual filled an important gap
in official doctrinal literature. Although it made no reference to Mao
Tse-tung or the rising tide of third world insurgencies in which U.S.
Army personnel were increasingly engaged, FM 31–20 (1951) related
enduring principles relevant to a wide range of counterguerrilla situations. Among the manual’s most salient concepts were its emphasis
on flexibility, adaptability, mobility, security, and surprise; its recognition that prevention and early action were better than a massive, but
belated, military response; and its call for careful politico-military
planning and coordination. Although it did not elaborate on exactly
how one could achieve the complicated integration of political and
military measures, the thrust of this strategy was sound, as was the
doctrine’s central goal of cutting the guerrilla off both physically and
spiritually from all sources of assistance. Together with the operational, tactical, and training advice contained in its pages, the manual
gave officers a solid basis on which to craft situation-specific counterguerrilla campaigns.
The Evolution of Army Doctrinal Literature, 1951–1958
FM 31–20’s precepts were widely disseminated during the early
1950s, thanks largely to the Korean War. Not only had the Army distributed a pre-publication version of the manual (ST 31–20–1) in late
1950, but it immediately followed up the publication of the manual in
February 1951 by printing a digested version of the doctrine in Officer’s
Call, an official publication that brought important subjects to the
attention of the officer corps. The extensive circulation of several studies on German counterguerrilla methods during World War II—studies
that Volckmann had used in preparing the manual—reinforced the new
doctrine, as did the publication of a number of articles examining post1940 guerrilla conflicts.26
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
While the publication of FM 31–20 in 1951 represented both the
first and most important step by the Army in the field of irregular warfare doctrine, it was not the final step. Although much of the urgency
behind the dissemination of counterguerrilla doctrine faded after the
conclusion of the Korean War, third world instability and the potential
threat of a war with the Soviet Union mandated continued interest,
albeit at a lower level of intensity.
The first manual to discuss issues related to counterguerrilla
warfare after the publication of FM 31–20 (1951) was FM 31–21,
Organization and Conduct of Guerrilla Warfare. Published eight
months after FM 31–20, FM 31–21 was Volckmann’s companion piece
to the counterguerrilla manual. Based like its counterpart on World War
II experience, FM 31–21 described the nature, organization, and methods of guerrilla warfare with an eye toward the use of such techniques
by U.S. forces during a conventional war. Though the manual did not
prescribe counterguerrilla tactics, it served as a useful adjunct to counterinsurgent planners, for whom understanding the enemy was the first
step toward defeating him.
Of equal interest to soldiers charged with counterguerrilla duties
was a formal “change” made by the Department of the Army in July
1952 to the 1949 edition of FM 100–5.27 The update, which represented
the first modification to the Army’s basic combat manual since the
outbreak of the Korean War, added a new section on “Security Against
Airborne Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration.” The ten-page
addendum reflected the Army’s growing concern over the threat that
guerrillas and partisans posed to Army rear areas during a conventional
war. It focused on ways to protect rear areas without having to divert
too many combat forces from the battlefront. Among the measures
recommended were the establishment of comprehensive warning and
communications systems, the use of convoys, air and ground patrols,
and guards to keep lines of communications open, and the creation of
self-defending service and supply installations reinforced, when necessary, by mobile reaction forces. Although largely defensive in nature,
the addendum also elevated into FM 100–5 certain key concepts from
FM 31–20 concerning the nature of guerrilla and counterguerrilla
action. Included among these were the necessity of good intelligence
and the utility of local civilians in obtaining it; the importance of
maintaining continuity in command, policy, and personnel; the value of
security, mobility, and surprise; the use of encirclement tactics aided by
airborne or heliborne troops; the merits of forming special antiguerrilla
units; and the necessity of isolating guerrillas from the civilian population. While this last point could be achieved partly through military
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
and security measures, “more important,” the insert explained, “is the
necessity for winning the support of the indigenous population away
from the guerrillas and infiltrators. This can best be accomplished by
the establishment of cooperation and good will between the civil population and the military forces. . . . Adherence to basic military government principles will do much toward diverting the civil population from
activities designed to prevent the maintenance of good order and public
safety. Propaganda plays an important part in winning the good will
and trust of the local populace.”28
By incorporating some of the principles contained in FM 31–20
into FM 100–5—one of the Army’s most widely read manuals—the
Department of the Army further ensured their dissemination throughout the force as a whole. Still, the Army believed that doctrinal gaps
remained, not so much in terms of the overall concept of counterirregular warfare, but in the specifics of rear area defense. Consequently,
in 1953 the Army published FM 31–15, Operations Against Airborne
Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration. Designed to flesh out the
general concepts expressed in the 1952 change to FM 100–5, FM
31–15 focused on the organizational and operational details involved
in orchestrating the defense of a rear area during a conventional war.
Its coverage of counterguerrilla warfare was truncated and incomplete,
not because the subject was unimportant, but because counterirregular
operations had already been covered in FM 31–20. FM 31–15 was thus
not meant to replace FM 31–20, but rather to supplement it, and the
new manual frequently referred readers to FM 31–20 and FM 31–21
for more specific information about guerrilla and counterguerrilla warfare. Nevertheless, the 1953 manual was careful to reiterate many of
the themes contained in earlier doctrine. It repeatedly noted the important role the population played in supporting enemy irregulars and the
necessity of severing this relationship through a combination of military, police, intelligence, psychological, resource-control, and political
measures. Thus FM 31–15 stated that “the scope of rear area defense
involves consideration of matters that are not purely military in nature,
but may exert tremendous influence on the military operations to be
conducted,” and it repeated FM 31–20’s call for the careful coordination of the “purely military effort with the political, administrative, and
economic aspects of the over-all plan.” “Failure to recognize and apply
necessary nonmilitary measures,” the manual continued, “may render
military operations ineffective, regardless of how well these operations
are planned and conducted.”29
Despite these warnings, FM 31–15 did not discuss the nonmilitary
aspects of rear area security in detail, partly because these were covered
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
to an extent in the Army’s civil affairs manuals and partly because the
Army believed that the formulation of policies pertaining to the internal affairs of foreign countries was beyond its bailiwick. Though the
manual endorsed the close coordination of political and military measures, it specifically stated that “the conduct of political and economic
warfare is not a function of the armed forces,” and it limited the Army’s
participation in the execution of such programs to “auxiliary action.”
Apparently, the Army felt uncomfortable with such a flat renunciation
of responsibility because the following year it changed the wording
to state that the conduct of political and economic warfare was not a
“primary” function of the armed forces, thereby opening the door to its
participation in such matters.30
No sooner had the Army published FM 31–15 than it began again
revising FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations. The revision had two goals: to incorporate the lessons of the Korean conflict
and to help prepare the Army for the defense of Western Europe against
a Soviet invasion, a mission that had evolved in earnest only after the
publication of the last full edition of FM 100–5 in 1949. As part of
this effort, the Army commissioned six German officers led by Franz
Halder, the former chief of the German General Staff, to critique the
1949 edition of FM 100–5 in light of their experience fighting the
Russians. Halder’s report, which was distributed to Army doctrine writers in the spring of 1953, concluded that
as an army manual, FM 100–5, just as did our own pre-war service regulations, overlooks the presence of the civilian population inhabiting the combat
area. . . . However, the population of an area touched by war, whether friendly
or hostile, will frequently confront not only the higher command but also
the combat forces with problems which affect even tactics and which must
not find them unprepared. Aside from such hindrances as the mass flight of
civilians, problems of supply, and similar considerations, the main problem
is that of coping with partisan warfare. Today a service manual must cover
this aspect fully.31
In the opinion of the German commentators, the 1949 version of
FM 100–5 fell short in this regard, so much so that they took the trouble
of writing an entirely new partisan warfare section that they recommended be included in FM 100–5. In actuality, the Halder report had no
influence over the treatment of irregular warfare in the new edition of
FM 100–5, not because the Army did not value the Germans’ opinions,
but because it had already incorporated them into official doctrine,
both in FM 31–20 (1951), and in the 1952 change to FM 100–5, neither
of which had been provided to the German analysts. The report did,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
however, serve as additional confirmation of the direction in which the
Army was already moving, as demonstrated by the remarkable similarity between the ideas expressed by Halder’s group and those that had
already been incorporated into U.S. doctrine based on the Army’s previous study of the German experience.32
The new edition of FM 100–5 that appeared in 1954 thus broke no
new ground with regard to antiguerrilla warfare. Central to its approach
was the notion that
Guerrilla forces cannot exist without civilian support. Consequently, every
effort should be made to prevent them from receiving this support. Such an
effort consists of physically isolating guerrilla forces from each other and both
physically and psychologically separating them from the civilian population.
This requires gaining and maintaining the support of the indigenous population. This can best be accomplished by the establishment of goodwill between
the civil population and the military forces; and rewards for friendly assistance,
and punishment for collaboration with guerrillas. In those instances where
control of the indigenous government is vested in the commander adherence
to principles of good military government will do much toward accomplishing the above. Propaganda, followed by implementation of promises, plays an
important part in winning the goodwill and trust of the local populace.33
For the most part, the manual limited its coverage of irregular warfare to broad, yet important, statements of principle, referring its readers to FMs 31–20 (1951), 31–21 (1951), and 31–15 (1953) for details.
It did, however, include several additional points that touched, albeit
indirectly, on the issue of counterguerrilla operations. Among these
were its assertion that the doctrines, tactics, and techniques contained
in its pages were merely guidelines that commanders were expected to
modify as circumstances warranted, and its recognition that, since “war
is a political act,” military means and objectives had to be tailored to
meet political ends. Both of these points, if taken to heart, had significant implications for counterguerrilla and pacification operations.34
Following the publication of FM 100–5 in 1954, the Army moved
to revise many of its other manuals during the mid-1950s. In 1955
it updated the 1949 edition of FM 33–5, Psychological Warfare
Operations. The new edition mentioned counterguerrilla operations
only briefly and was bereft of information on Communist insurgent
movements, a significant failing. On the other hand, it was the first
Army psychological warfare (psywar) manual to include a discussion
of consolidation psychological warfare, that branch of the persuasive
arts directed toward friendly and occupied populations. The manual
recognized the advantages of providing food, shelter, and economic
rehabilitation to help win public support but also warned against mak146
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
ing promises that one could not keep. It understood the psychological
importance of military success and personal security, noting that civilians who believed that the enemy might return would be reluctant to
cooperate with friendly forces in fear of retaliation, while those who
were convinced that their security was assured would be more willing
to cooperate with the Army.35
Of potentially greater import for counterinsurgency was FM 27–
10, The Law of Land Warfare, published in 1956. This manual officially
incorporated the results of the 1949 Geneva Convention into Army
doctrine. Yet, other than extending some of the protections afforded to
civilians and prisoners in international conflicts to conflicts “not of an
international character,” the new rules changed very little with regard to
American doctrine. Hostage taking, long accepted in Army regulations,
was now banned, and the manual repeated traditional proscriptions
against cruelty, torture, pillage, and personal misconduct.36 The manual
frowned on devastation, unless there was “some reasonably close connection between the destruction of property and the overcoming of the
enemy’s army,” a caveat that counterinsurgents could use to justify the
destruction of food and shelter in guerrilla-dominated areas.37 It also
repeated international law’s long-standing refusal to accord captured
guerrillas prisoner-of-war status unless they were organized under
a responsible command, wore distinctive insignia, bore their arms
openly, and conducted themselves in accordance with the laws of war.
Individuals who violated these rules by concealing their weapons or
otherwise masking their identity as combatants could be put on trial
and punished, possibly by death. Finally, FM 27–10 (1956) noted that
the Geneva Convention permitted armed forces to “undertake total or
partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or
imperative military reasons so demanded,” a precept that sanctioned the
counterinsurgent tactic of population removal.38
Having set the legal parameters under which U.S. soldiers would
conduct counterguerrilla and pacification operations, the Army proceeded to update its doctrine governing its relationship with foreign
and occupied populations—the first such revision since 1947. Like
most Army manuals, FM 41–10, Civil Affairs Military Government
Operations (1957), had a distinctly conventional focus, yet it was profoundly relevant for counterguerrilla warfare because the Army would
apply the manual’s principles to all of the Army’s dealings with civilian
populations, regardless of the nature of the conflict. Moreover, since
a major war with the Soviet Union might involve the occupation of
enemy territory, American civil affairs planners were well aware that
they needed to be prepared to neutralize the lingering vestiges of the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Communist political, military, and social apparatus—problems akin
to those that would materialize in a counterinsurgency situation not
associated with a major war. Consequently, the 1957 edition of FM
41–10 became the first civil affairs and military government manual to
include a section specifically devoted to civil affairs’ role in counterguerrilla warfare.39
Like its predecessors, FM 41–10 (1957) prescribed a blend of pragmatic and humanitarian measures. Believing that guerrillas flourished
under conditions of disorder and socioeconomic hardship, the manual
called for the early restoration of law, order, and stability through the
establishment of police and judicial services, the resumption of local
government, the revitalization of economic and agricultural production, and the provision of humanitarian relief. Mobile clinics would
treat the sick and demonstrate child care and sanitation techniques,
military engineers would improve public infrastructures, and agricultural specialists would test soils and offer advice on animal husbandry.
Such projects would be carefully planned and closely coordinated with
local officials to ensure that they would meet the genuine needs and
desires of the local population. Meanwhile, information, education, and
propaganda programs would provide maximum publicity for these and
other initiatives to ensure that the policies were understood and that the
government received credit for its efforts. Finally, commanders were
to encourage their subordinates to respect local beliefs and customs,
to cultivate personal relationships with the population, and to exhibit
proper behavior at all times to win public support for the government
and the Army.40
While benevolence was by far the preferred policy, the manual
called for sterner measures should the population respond to these
overtures with continued resistance. Punishments were to be proportional to the offense, explained to the population, and crafted so as to
minimize undue injury to innocent parties. Among the Army’s more
punitive weapons were censorship, population registration, restrictions
on the movement of people and goods, licensing, fines, imprisonment,
and reparations. Like FM 31–20 (1951), the manual deemed strict
controls over the distribution of food, clothing, and medicines to be
especially important in counterguerrilla warfare.
Although coercion had an important, if distasteful, role to play,
FM 41–10 echoed other manuals in recognizing that the military had
an obligation to protect the population from guerrilla coercion and
exploitation. It likewise reiterated Army doctrine with respect to the use
of natives in police, administrative, self-defense, reconnaissance, and
intelligence capacities. On the other hand, while the manual declared
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
that the military had the right to relocate civilians, it generally discouraged such actions. Forced evacuations disturbed social order; imposed
significant burdens on the government for the transportation, resettlement, and care of the affected populations; and created resentment that
was readily exploited by the enemy’s propaganda machine.41
FM 41–10’s uneasiness concerning population relocation highlighted an ambiguous doctrinal area. Although both the Axis powers
and several Western nations, including the United States, had relocated populations during past counterguerrilla operations, Americans
sometimes found such measures distasteful. Recent experiences in
Korea and Greece, where removal schemes had proved effective but
enormously disruptive and expensive, probably gave Americans further
pause. Thus, while removal remained in the Army’s official doctrinal
repertoire during the 1950s, it was always regarded as merely one tool
among many, and one that had to be handled carefully at that. Not
until the end of the decade, when recent French and British experience
seemed to demonstrate the virtues of relocation, did American writers
begin to warm noticeably toward this technique.42
Although FM 41–10’s consideration of guerrilla warfare was brief,
the manual complemented earlier manuals that had focused more exclusively on the military aspects of counterinsurgency. Unfortunately, by the
time it was published several changes had occurred that seriously eroded
counterinsurgency’s place in Army doctrine. The decline had begun in
1954, when Army Field Forces directed that doctrinal responsibility
for counterguerrilla warfare be shifted from the Infantry School at Fort
Benning, where Volckmann had written the doctrine, to the Psychological
Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It further ordered that FM
31–20 and FM 31–21 be merged into a single manual covering both
guerrilla and counterguerrilla warfare. The transfer from Benning to
Bragg was well intentioned and made a certain amount of sense. The
Psychological Warfare Center was responsible for both psychological
warfare and the Army’s budding Special Forces organization, which was
charged with conducting guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. Since
counterguerrilla warfare required some familiarity with both psychological and guerrilla warfare activities, Army Field Forces reckoned that Fort
Bragg was the logical place to focus all of the Army’s unconventional
warfare endeavors. Besides, during the early 1950s the special warfare
community, under the leadership of chief of Psychological Warfare Brig.
Gen. Robert A. McClure, had been one of the leading proponents within
the Army for studying counterguerrilla warfare.
There were, however, several countervailing factors. To begin
with, the failure of enemy irregulars to play a decisive role in the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
now concluded Korean War had taken some of the urgency out of the
Army’s interest in counterguerrilla warfare. This decline in interest
was noticeable not only in the Army as a whole, but in the special
warfare community as well, which, after McClure’s departure for
another assignment in 1954, ranked counterguerrilla and consolidation psychological warfare at the very bottom of its list of priorities for
unconventional warfare research. Indeed, the Psychological Warfare
Center argued vigorously against Army Field Forces’ decision to give
it doctrinal responsibility for counterinsurgency on the grounds that
“the tactics, doctrine and the conduct of anti-guerrilla operations is
not the responsibility or mission of special forces.” Army Field Forces
overruled the objection, however, and counterinsurgency became the
unwanted stepchild of the special warfare community.43
The inevitable result of this unhappy arrangement was that counterinsurgency doctrine suffered a slow death at the hands of its mentors at Fort Bragg, who gave little more than lip service to it during
the remainder of the decade. The first step in this process occurred in
1955 when, at the direction of Army Field Forces, the Psychological
Warfare Center released two new guerrilla warfare manuals. The first,
U.S. Army Special Forces Group (Airborne), bore the designation FM
31–20 but differed dramatically from the FM 31–20 of 1951 in that
it was devoted exclusively to the tactics and techniques of Americansponsored guerrilla warfare. The second manual, Guerrilla Warfare,
merged the two original Volckmann manuals of 1951—Operations
Against Guerrilla Forces (FM 31–20) and Organization and Conduct
of Guerrilla Warfare (FM 31–21)—into a single volume, designated
FM 31–21.44
The intellectual thrust of the new FM 31–21 differed little from
its 1951 progenitors. It reiterated most of the themes and much of the
language of the earlier manuals, albeit in a reorganized and less verbose
fashion. The 1955 manual was also a bit more reticent about employing
stern tactics, as it shunned hostage taking and reprisals and dropped
the word harsh from its description of acceptable control measures.
Technology also played a somewhat greater role in the new doctrine, as
FM 31–21 (1955) described small-unit heliborne operations that foreshadowed the “eagle flight” technique employed by American forces a
decade later in Vietnam.45
Yet not all of the changes were positive, for in the process of distilling two manuals into one, the writers at Fort Bragg deleted some valuable information contained in the original FM 31–20. Gone were most
of the historical examples as well as some of the useful insights, like
the original manual’s precautionary advice for soldiers to police their
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
bivouacs to prevent guerrillas from salvaging supplies. The new manual
curtailed much of its predecessor’s discussion about the employment of
artillery, armor, close air support, and special antiguerrilla units, and
even gave less attention to the role of the population. Moreover, while
the authors of Guerrilla Warfare had preserved many of the principles
found in FM 31–20 (1951), in their quest to consolidate the Volckmann
manuals they eliminated much of the explanatory material that had
given these principles meaning. The result was a doctrinal product that,
while more succinct, was less robust.
Matters were soon to become worse, however, for in 1958, the
Army implemented a second consolidation that virtually eliminated
counterguerrilla theory from U.S. Army doctrine altogether. The consolidation merged the 1955 versions of FM 31–20 and FM 31–21 into
a single manual—FM 31–21, Guerrilla Warfare and Special Forces
Operations. This new manual focused exclusively on guerrilla warfare
and eliminated entirely the 1955 edition’s counterguerrilla section. In
a single stroke, the Army lost its most important source of information on counterguerrilla warfare. True, FM 31–15, Operations Against
Airborne Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration (1953), remained in
force, while FM 100–5 (1954), FM 41–10 (1957), and a few branchlevel manuals contained small counterguerrilla sections. But the treatment of counterguerrilla warfare in these manuals was incomplete, in
part because they had been written with the assumption that readers
could always turn to either the original FM 31–20 (1951) or FM 31–21
(1955) for background. Indeed, they explicitly instructed their readers
to do so. After 1958, however, detailed doctrine for counterguerrilla
operations no longer existed in the family of Army manuals, leaving
manuals like FMs 31–15 and 100–5 adrift, without the intellectual and
conceptual moorings necessary for the formulation of a well-grounded
understanding of the principal aspects of counterguerrilla warfare.
Thus, after promising beginnings in 1951, by decade’s end counterinsurgency doctrine had fallen into disarray.46
Counterinsurgency in the Educational and Training Systems
While manuals were the primary source of doctrine, soldiers also
received exposure to counterinsurgency concepts in the classroom and
on the training field. In 1948 the U.S. Army Command and General
Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, had become the
first Army school after World War II to cover counterguerrilla warfare.
The coverage was infinitesimal, consisting of just two pages out of a
lecture devoted to the employment of partisans by U.S. forces during a
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
conventional war. The first real examination of counterguerrilla operations occurred at the Infantry School, which introduced the subject,
together with ST 31–20–1, in the fall of 1950 in reaction to the Korean
War. Thereafter, students enrolled in the infantry officer’s advanced
course at Fort Benning received three hours of antiguerrilla warfare
instruction and one hour on the employment of friendly guerrillas.
Other institutions, including the Command and General Staff College
and the Armor, Engineer, Transportation, and Army General schools,
offered similar courses tailored to their particular specialties.47
Attention to counterguerrilla warfare quickly faded after the
Korean War. The Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania,
which had virtually ignored the subject even during the height of the
war, continued to neglect it, preferring to devote what little time the
college spent on irregular conflict to the employment of friendly partisans in Eastern Europe. The Command and General Staff College
likewise refocused its partisan operations course exclusively on guerrilla, as opposed to counterguerrilla, warfare. Most other Army schools
omitted the subject entirely. Even the Infantry School cut its coverage
of counterguerrilla warfare in half after 1955.48
The disappearance of counterguerrilla studies from most military
curriculums during the second half of the 1950s, when coupled with
the subject’s declining fortunes in Army manuals, meant that the number of officers exposed to the subject steadily diminished after 1955.
This is not to say, however, that the educational system completely
ignored counterinsurgency issues. To begin with, after 1954 all Reserve
Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets received a brief introduction
to counterguerrilla warfare through ROTC manual 145–60, Small Unit
Tactics, Including Communications.49 Moreover, there were many subjects taught in Army schools that were applicable in varying degrees to
a counterinsurgency environment. Among these were civil affairs and
military government, refugee control, military law and the laws of war,
mountain and jungle warfare, small-unit infantry tactics, riot control,
Special Forces operations, consolidation psychological warfare, and rear
area defense, not to mention basic intelligence, reconnaissance, and staff
techniques. Courses in civil affairs and rear area defense, as taught at the
Civil Affairs and Provost Marshal General’s schools at Camp Gordon,
Georgia, and the Adjutant General’s School at Camp Lee, Virginia,
were particularly relevant, especially since these courses continued to
be based on the original series of counterguerrilla works of 1950–1952,
thereby perpetuating some concepts that had faded from subsequent
doctrinal works. Finally, during the latter half of the 1950s, a new course
of instruction began to emerge, most notably at the Command and
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
General Staff College, on “situations short of war,” a subject that was
closely related to counterguerrilla and pacification issues.50
In addition to developing and disseminating course material,
the Army education system encouraged the examination of doctrine
through two other media—articles in the Army’s professional journals and student papers. Between 1950 and 1960, Army professional
journals published over forty articles that dealt to some degree with
subjects related to counterguerrilla warfare and pacification. These
articles, some of which were written by school instructors, represented
a blend of historical studies, operational accounts, commentaries, and
synopses of current doctrine which, taken collectively, furthered the
dissemination of counterguerrilla doctrine to the Army as a whole.
Student papers received significantly less dissemination but provided valuable insights into the state of Army thinking, especially since
some of them were explicitly written for the purpose of evaluating doctrine in response to school initiatives. Although World War II examples
remained of enduring interest to students throughout the 1950s, by middecade student papers increasingly made reference to Maoist concepts
and more contemporary foreign experiences, a trend that indicated
that at least some officers were delving beyond the initial sources of
American doctrine to examine new concepts.51
For the most part, the articles and student essays written by officers during the 1950s endorsed the principles expressed in FM 31–20
(1951) and its successors, concluding as had CGSC instructor and
counterguerrilla veteran Lt. Col. John Beebe, that U.S. Army doctrine
was “sound and adequate.” Themes that received special attention
included the importance of comprehensive politico-military planning
and the necessity for separating the guerrillas from the population
through a mixture of military action, propaganda, restrictive measures,
and progressive social, political, and economic programs. Continuous
offensive action remained the key to the military side of the equation,
but nearly every writer during the 1950s appreciated the importance of
nonmilitary factors in counterinsurgency operations. When disagreements emerged, they usually occurred over such topics as the wisdom
of creating special counterinsurgency units or the relative merits of
saturation patrolling versus large-scale encirclement operations. More
pointedly, while most authors endorsed the general outline of existing
doctrine, they fretted that it was not well understood within the officer
corps as a whole, given the limited amount of time devoted to counterguerrilla subjects in the Army’s pedagogical system.52
Officers who were dissatisfied with the amount of attention allocated to counterguerrilla subjects in Army classrooms were likewise
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
U.S. Army cavalrymen playing the role of mounted guerrillas
during a counterguerrilla training exercise
critical of the scant attention devoted to these areas in training. The
Army training system had virtually ignored counterguerrilla warfare
during the late 1940s. The seriousness of this omission was demonstrated in March 1950, when the 3d Infantry Division participated in a
Caribbean training exercise that included an “enemy” guerrilla force.
Organized by an OSS veteran, the “guerrillas” consisted of Puerto
Rican soldiers from the U.S. 65th Infantry, and a network of civilian
spies. The exercise proved somewhat embarrassing for the 3d Infantry
Division after the insurgents “killed” the division’s entire command
element, “blew up” supply depots, and “ambushed” several troop columns, all without loss to themselves. The division protested the simulation as unfair, but several months later, both it and the 65th Infantry
were performing counterguerrilla duty in Korea against an opponent
who was deaf to cries of foul play.53
By the fall of 1950 Communist guerrillas had become sufficiently
bothersome to U.S. forces in Korea that the Army ordered that greater
attention be paid to antiguerrilla warfare throughout the training system. Indeed, the Korean experience and the threat that it would be
repeated in any war with the Soviet Union was sufficient to persuade
the Army to continue providing a modicum of counterguerrilla training throughout the remainder of the decade. Exposure to counterguerrilla warfare began in basic training, as all Army recruits during
the 1950s received four hours of antiguerrilla instruction. Training
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
regulations governing rifle companies required that antiguerrilla
patrolling situations be included in advanced individual training for
infantrymen, while in 1956 the Army published guidelines for an
eight-hour block of anti-infiltration and antiguerrilla instruction as
part of unit-level training. Throughout the decade the Army repeatedly
directed commanders to integrate counterguerrilla subjects into all
phases of training and instruction, including field exercises. Special
Forces or other Army personnel sometimes played the role of hostile
guerrillas in these exercises, while manuals and private publications
by interested officers offered advice on how counterguerrilla training
could best be accomplished. Most of this training revolved around
individual soldier skills and defensive measures, such as the protection
of march columns, convoys, bivouacs, and installations—subjects that
were applicable to all forms of irregular combat but which reflected
the Army’s particular preoccupation with rear area security during a
conventional conflict. Offensive antiguerrilla operations, when included in training, were almost always restricted to squad-, platoon-, and
company-level patrols, raids, and ambushes.54
Other areas of training that occasionally touched on subjects related
to irregular warfare and pacification included civil affairs, “population
control,” and Ranger training. Of these, Ranger training was particularly important. Senior Army leaders were enamored with the Ranger
concept during the 1950s, and, after the abortive experiment with
Ranger units during the early stages of the Korean War, the Department
of the Army directed that all newly commissioned Regular Army infantry, armor, artillery, engineer, military police, and signal corps officers
receive either Ranger or airborne training. The five- to seven-week
course at Fort Benning focused on individual combat and survival
skills, physical conditioning, fieldcraft, mountain, jungle, swamp, and
amphibious operations, patrolling, and small-unit tactics—exactly the
type of knowledge that was at a premium in counterguerrilla warfare.
The Army’s goal was to have at least one Ranger-trained officer in each
rifle company and one Ranger-qualified noncommissioned officer in
each rifle platoon who would then spread their knowledge throughout
the infantry force. The effort proved so popular that several divisions
began Ranger training for entire units, and in 1957 the Army published FM 21–50, Ranger Training, to help commanders establish such
courses. Not only was the manual devoted to subjects that were useful
in combating guerrillas, like ambush and counterambush techniques,
but it also contained a brief concept for counterguerrilla operations.
According to this concept, a liberal use of troop-carrying aircraft and
helicopters would permit a relatively small number of highly trained
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
“Guerrillas” ambush an unsuspecting soldier during a training exercise.
infantrymen to control large areas through airmobile reconnaissance,
strike, and patrol actions.55
A final genre of training applicable to irregular warfare was night
combat. The basic infantry officers course at Fort Benning included
thirty hours of training in nighttime guerrilla and counterguerrilla
operations, while Army regulations required that at least one-third of
all applicatory stages of tactical and movement training be conducted at
night. Such an edict, if obeyed, would have greatly improved the ability
of U.S. soldiers to operate during the guerrillas’ favorite time of day.
Unfortunately, the regulation was not always observed because commanders considered night training difficult and burdensome.56
The Army’s failure to train aggressively at night illustrates the
difficulty of evaluating the state of counterguerrilla training during
the 1950s. Unlike night training that, in theory at least, was mandatory, most counterguerrilla training was optional, to be integrated into
a unit’s normal training regimen at the discretion of the commander.
Consequently, proficiency varied widely from unit to unit. Given the
diminishing attention devoted to counterguerrilla subjects in Army
manuals and schools during the mid-1950s, the Army’s repeated exhortations that counterguerrilla subjects be treated as a normal part of training were not likely taken to heart during the second half of the decade.
Moreover, the Army sent out conflicting signals. While it encouraged
the integration of irregular warfare into exercises, it cautioned that
“guerrilla operations must be carefully planned and controlled in order
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
to prevent undue interference with the planned progress of the maneuver and the accomplishment of other maneuver objectives.” Concerns
over safety and controllability similarly limited the involvement of
civilians in exercises, as well as the wearing of civilian clothing by the
“guerrillas,” restrictions that further compromised the realism of Army
maneuvers. The result was that many counterguerrilla exercises were of
limited value, consisting largely of road-bound patrols and disappointing sweeps.57
This was not, however, universally the case. For example, during Exercise Devilstrike in Germany in 1959, an infantry battalion
augmented by scout and psychological warfare teams successfully
established a system of area control in which each of its companies
extensively patrolled an assigned sector while an airmobile strike force
waited in reserve to exploit potential contacts. Meanwhile, on the other
side of the globe, the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division conducted
what was perhaps the Army’s most sustained program of counterguerrilla training. Beginning in 1956, the division, which was earmarked for
contingency operations in Asia where potential adversaries were likely
to resort to irregular warfare, required all its personnel to cycle through
the division’s Jungle and Guerrilla Warfare Center for a minimum of
five and a half days per year. Such exercises, together with the general
interest in Ranger training, ensured that at least some soldiers and units
would gain proficiency in the type of individual and small-unit skills
required in a counterguerrilla environment.58
The Resurgence of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1958–1960
One factor that contributed to the Army’s inattention to irregular
warfare was its preoccupation with nuclear weapons. By the early 1950s
a debate was raging within the Army as to how it should adjust to the
nuclear age. Nuclear weapons made their first appearance in the Army’s
basic combat manual, FM 100–5, in 1954, nine years after the development of the atomic bomb. The following year, the Army published
its first manual devoted exclusively to the use of nuclear devices in
combat—FM 100–31, Tactical Use of Atomic Weapons—and initiated a
major overhaul of its educational system. At the Command and General
Staff College, nuclear combat became the standard model for future warfare while nonnuclear situations were depicted as deviations from that
norm. By 1956 Fort Leavenworth was devoting approximately 50 percent
of its curriculum to nuclear warfare scenarios, and the strain of having to
cover both nuclear and conventional combat without extending the length
of the course left little time for the study of unconventional warfare.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Moreover, between 1956 and 1958, the Army completely restructured
its combat divisions to create new formations—called “pentomic” divisions—specifically tailored for nuclear warfare conditions. Under such
circumstances, the Army had neither the time nor the intellectual energy
to devote to counterguerrilla issues.59
Nor could it readily justify such a diversion given the policies of
Truman’s successor in the White House, retired General of the Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower. Convinced that the United States could not
afford to match the Soviet Union’s massive conventional forces and that
nuclear weapons had made such forces virtually obsolete in any case,
the Eisenhower administration (1953–1961) sharply limited resources
for ground combat forces. Eisenhower was equally outspoken in his
determination not to embroil U.S. ground forces in small wars or
insurgencies on the grounds that such conflicts were difficult to win
and placed undue burdens on American resources. Better to arm and
train our allies to fight for themselves under the general protection
of America’s nuclear umbrella than to commit U.S. ground forces to
secure them from local Communist aggression. Such a policy gave the
Army little incentive to devote its already scarce resources to preparing
for third world conflicts. Rather, the Army’s neglect of counterinsurgency during most of the Eisenhower years was in full consonance with
U.S. national security policy.60
Not everyone, however, was happy with Eisenhower’s policies.
Opposition arose both from within the Army, which felt it suffered
unduly from the president’s nuclear orientation, and from the growing community of national security strategists. In 1957 two leading
civilian theorists, Robert Osgood and Henry Kissinger, published
books criticizing the Eisenhower administration’s policy of massive
retaliation, which they regarded as dangerous, inflexible, and ultimately
unbelievable as a deterrent to local conflicts. They argued the United
States needed to develop the political and military capability to conduct
limited wars below the threshold of an all-out nuclear confrontation.
Although limited war theory eventually included much theorizing
about conflict management and the use of graduated responses to deter
aggression that many soldiers neither fully understood nor embraced,
the Army recognized in the limited war advocates a welcome ally in the
struggle to save ground forces from irrelevancy.61
While neither the limited war theoreticians nor the Army’s senior
leadership had much interest in or understanding of guerrilla warfare,
both agreed that the United States needed to be able to combat irregulars without resorting to atomic weapons. In his bid to win greater
resources for the Army, Chief of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
frequently cited “the increasing danger of so-called small wars” as
justification for the development of “flexible, proportioned strength”
capable of coping with “small wars as well as big wars, with wars in
jungle or mountains as well as in Europe,” and with “brush fires.”62
Under his aegis, in 1957 the Command and General Staff College
drafted a strategy for combating Communist insurgencies. The “think
piece” called for the provision of economic, financial, and technical
aid to threatened societies to promote stability and economic development, the construction of communication and transportation infrastructures in those same countries to facilitate American intervention,
and the creation of a U.S. Army intervention force endowed with “both
a military capability and a political capability” and trained in antiguerrilla warfare, civil disturbances, and small-unit operations.63
Eisenhower’s aversion for brush fire wars notwithstanding, he was
already moving toward embracing elements of the CGSC’s proposed
strategy. Mirroring the philosophy exhibited by the Marshall Plan
and the policies pursued by the Truman administration in combating
the postwar insurgencies, President Eisenhower announced in 1956
that poverty was the primary facilitator for the spread of communism
throughout the less developed areas of the world, and he vowed to
increase the amount of economic, military, and ideological warfare
assistance given to such areas. In addition to deploying eighty-five
counterguerrilla mobile training teams to fourteen countries between
1955 and 1960, Eisenhower initiated a police aid program that he
thought would prove both more economical and more effective than
military assistance in addressing the problems of internal insecurity.
Managed largely by the International Cooperation Agency, with occasional participation by the Department of Defense and the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), this program had by 1958 provided training
in police administration, countersubversion, and community relations
to 690,000 policemen in twenty-one countries.64 As will be discussed
more fully in the following chapter, President Eisenhower even saw
merit in Taylor’s call for an intervention force, and in 1958 he authorized the creation of a Strategic Army Corps whose mission included
preparing for overseas contingencies.
Still, concerns over the threat of Communist insurgencies in the less
developed world continued to grow, and in November 1958 Eisenhower
initiated a major review of the military assistance program. Chaired
by William H. Draper, the President’s Committee To Study the U.S.
Military Assistance Program issued a report in August 1959 that called
for several programmatic reforms. Among these were improvements
in the selection and preparation of advisory personnel and a greater
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
emphasis on countering subversion by providing counterintelligence,
psychological warfare, and civil affairs assistance.65
The Draper committee also subscribed to an idea, recently proposed
by the Army’s civil affairs community, that the United States encourage
foreign armies to promote socioeconomic development in their home
countries. In this the committee was particularly influenced by two of
its members—retired Army Brig. Gen. Don G. Shingler, an engineer
who wrote the committee’s civil affairs annex, and Col. Robert H.
Slover, the committee’s secretary, who was a civil affairs officer and a
veteran of the Army’s civil assistance program in Korea, AFAK. Also
influential on this score were Army Chief of Staff Taylor, founder of
AFAK, and Air Force Colonel Lansdale, who submitted a report on
his Philippine activities to the Draper committee. In the committee’s
view, military organizations were often the most efficient and modern
institutions in underdeveloped countries, and consequently could act as
“transmission belts” of administrative and technological skills to their
parent societies. Moreover, by taking an active part in promoting socioeconomic progress, foreign armies could help redress the causes of
internal unrest and win popular approval for both themselves and their
governments. The committee adopted Lansdale’s term civic action to
describe military involvement in social, political, and economic reform
programs of this kind.
Not everyone was comfortable with civic action. Some soldiers
feared that it would undermine readiness by diverting manpower and
resources to nonmilitary functions, while State Department officials
disliked the prospect of soldiers meddling in political affairs. Nor was
there any true agreement as to exactly what civic action entailed. Was it
nation building writ large or merely a collection of piecemeal projects?
Did it aim to achieve long-term development or short-term changes
of less lasting but more immediate impact? These and other questions
were never fully answered, but the committee did establish some guidelines. It stated that the performance of civic action activities should not
be allowed to distract from an army’s primary, military duties; that civic
action projects should not be carried out to the detriment of private
enterprise or for the benefit of special interest groups; and that such
programs should not exceed the capacity of the local society to absorb
and maintain them. Within these parameters, the Draper committee
strongly endorsed military civic action.66
The Eisenhower administration quickly embraced the committee’s
recommendations. After incorporating language into the Mutual
Security Act of 1959 that encouraged military involvement in nation
building, in May 1960 it gave the Army limited authority to promote
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
civic action programs overseas. The Departments of State and Defense
reaffirmed this decision by informing all U.S. embassies, unified
commands, and military assistance groups that U.S. policy was to
encourage foreign military and paramilitary organizations to promote
economic development. The United States likewise offered to send
mobile training teams to help foreign governments plan and organize
such efforts. The response was hardly overwhelming. Only two countries—Guatemala and Iran—responded positively to the offer, in part
because the United States intended to confine its civic action assistance
to providing advice, rather than money and materiel. Unless the United
States financed such endeavors, few countries were interested in having American military emissaries pontificate about the benefits of civic
action. Undeterred by the lackluster response, in November 1960 the
U.S. Army dispatched its first mobile civic action team to Guatemala,
thereby setting in motion what would become one of America’s major
weapons against Communist subversion in the third world.67
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the pace of activity quickened.
Spurred by the triumph of Fidel Castro’s insurgency in Cuba, the Joint
Chiefs endorsed the administration’s growing concern over third world
revolutions, noting that “the growth of nationalism and the desire for
an improved lot among backward and dependent people” meant that
“a major prize in the continuing conflict [with communism] . . . will
be the adherence of wavering peoples to the Soviet or Western democratic cause.” General Taylor concurred, and he initiated a review of
the Army’s ability to combat guerrilla warfare. The review reached the
rather dubious conclusion that the amount of attention devoted to counterguerrilla warfare in the Army’s training and doctrinal systems was
“adequate and in balance with other training objectives.” Nevertheless,
change was in the offing, and by 1960 the Joint Chiefs were freely
admitting that at least one component of the military’s training system, the military assistance program, had not done an adequate job of
preparing foreign soldiers to suppress insurgencies. Consequently, the
Joint Chiefs directed the Army to begin posting a limited number of
Special Forces, civil affairs, psychological warfare, and intelligence
personnel in countries threatened by insurgency. It likewise instructed
the Army to establish a special counterguerrilla operations course for
both American and foreign personnel. This directive led to the establishment of a six-week “Counter-Guerrilla Operations and Tactics”
course at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg on 26 January 1961,
the first course in Army history entirely devoted to the subject. Finally,
in October 1960 the National Security Council directed the Defense
Department to develop a new doctrine for counterinsurgency, a task
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
that the department delegated to the Army. Reflecting the growing consensus that “we need to improve our capabilities and those of our allies
to conduct anti-guerrilla warfare,” Taylor’s successor as Army chief of
staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, immediately put his staff to work
crafting new doctrinal materials.68
In undertaking this task, Army personnel examined not only past
American doctrine, but the recent experiences of others. As early as
October 1950 the National Security Council had called for the United
States to lead a multinational effort to gather information about the
free world’s experiences in countering Communist guerrillas. In practice, this effort had had little if any impact on Army doctrine because
the basic doctrine (FM 31–20 of 1951) had already been written and
subsequent Army manuals had done little more than convey distilled
versions of this material. Nevertheless, the Army had not ignored the
contemporary experiences of others. Throughout the decade, military
attaches and intelligence officers had gathered foreign works pertaining to counterinsurgency, while a small number of officers had analyzed and disseminated this information through journal articles and
student papers.69
For the most part, Americans focused their attention on the British
and French. As early as 1951, one of the Army’s foremost experts on
psychological warfare, Maj. Paul Linebarger, had declared Britain’s
methods in countering Communist guerrillas in Malaya to be “one of
our most valuable codes of military training and doctrine.” Although
interest in Malaya remained modest for most of the decade, by 1960
the Army had distributed copies of the British manual Conduct of
Anti-terrorist Operations in Malaya to all its service schools for use in
formulating doctrine.70
The Army also gathered information on French operations in
Indochina and Algeria during the 1950s, but U.S. soldiers did not show
much interest in the French experience until the end of the decade.
The language barrier and political tensions between the United States
and France impeded the acquisition of information, while France’s
defeat in Indochina further discouraged analysis, as Americans looking for examples to emulate naturally gravitated toward winners, like
the British, rather than losers. Those who examined the Indochina War
echoed the conclusions drawn by U.S. political and military officials
at the time. They roundly criticized France for failing to initiate sound
political policies to win Vietnamese popular favor, while dismissing
French military operations as being too passive and defensively oriented. Such criticisms fully reflected U.S. Army preference for positive
programs and aggressive action.71
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
While the Indochina experience was largely dismissed, Army analysts of the late 1950s paid somewhat more attention to the civil war in
Algeria (1954–1962), partly because it was more recent and therefore
offered a window into the latest French thinking and partly because
the French seemed more successful there. American interest in French
thought also intensified when, after several years of soul searching,
the French began to distill the lessons of their Indochina and Algerian
experiences into a new counterinsurgency doctrine, which they called
guerre revolutionnaire (“revolutionary war”). The Army acquired
and translated several tracts on guerre revolutionnaire, republishing
excerpts in military journals, while individual officers occasionally
analyzed the new doctrine through articles and essays. Although U.S.
commentators found certain aspects of the French Army’s behavior
disturbing—most notably its willingness to resort to torture, heavyhanded propaganda, and antidemocratic activities—they were drawn
by the doctrine’s modern feel. Unlike existing American and British
doctrine, which addressed guerrilla warfare from the perspectives of
rear area security and colonial administration, guerre revolutionnaire
placed irregular conflict firmly in the context of the Cold War. Modern
guerrilla warfare, according to guerre revolutionnaire theorists, was
the product of an international Communist conspiracy that attacked
the West by exploiting third world conditions. Guerre revolutionnaire’s
relevance to contemporary issues was further amplified by its explicitly Maoist focus. Unlike American manuals, which made no mention
at all of Mao’s theories, the French were fascinated by contemporary
Communist organizational, political, and manipulative techniques,
insisting that counterinsurgents develop Western equivalents to counteract each Communist initiative. French theory also elevated political, social, and psychological countermeasures to positions coequal
with that of traditional military action—a perspective that many U.S.
politicians, civilian strategists, and unconventional warfare specialists
found appealing, not only because it magnified the roles they would
play in managing future conflicts, but because the doctrine dovetailed
with their own perceptions. Consequently, though still new and only
partially understood, guerre revolutionnaire added momentum to the
reevaluation of U.S. doctrine.72
The Army’s promotion of civic action and its growing interest in
Mao and guerre revolutionnaire also reflected broader trends in the academic and political community. During the 1950s the continuous political, social, and economic upheaval experienced by many of the world’s
poorer and post-colonial societies had drawn the attention of academics and policy makers alike. They sought to understand the nature of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
political and economic development in the hope of discovering a way
to stop the spread of communism and encourage the growth of open,
democratic, and capitalistic societies. Leading the academic effort was
Walt W. Rostow whose 1960 book, The Stages of Economic Growth: A
Non-Communist Manifesto, had an immediate and far-ranging impact.
Rostow theorized that every society went through five fairly comparable stages of economic development. Of these, the transition to
modernity was the most destabilizing, as traditional values and institutions clashed with more modern ones, creating confusion, strife, and
upheaval in every aspect of political, social, and economic life. Rapid
population growth, urbanization, and technological change complicated
the transition, as did the competing forces of colonialism, nationalism, and regionalism. Rostow hypothesized that a “revolution of rising
expectations” existed that, if long unfulfilled, might tempt the peoples
of the underdeveloped world to embrace communism as a shortcut to
modernization. Indeed, in his estimation, communism was a disease
that thrived during this transitional stage, shamelessly exploiting and
subverting the aspirations of the masses for its own ends. But just as a
doctor could use medical science to defeat disease, Rostow believed that
skilled practitioners of the social sciences—politics, economics, and
sociology—could defeat communism by administering carefully crafted
programs in a way that would allow emerging societies to “take off ” on
their journey toward achieving Western-style democratic capitalism.73
While the theory was new, the prescription—enlightened political, social, and economic reforms implemented under the guidance
of a benevolent American patron—echoed long-established themes
in America’s liberal and progressive tradition, not to mention general
Western conceptions of the “white man’s burden.” As such, Rostow’s
blending of state of the art social science with traditional American
themes struck a cord among many policy makers who, like Truman
and Eisenhower, regarded economic rehabilitation and modernization
as vaccines against communism. One politician who was particularly
enamored with Rostow’s theories was the presidential candidate and
senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, who had long believed
that aggressive political, psychological, and economic measures—rather
than mere military force—were the surest way to defeat Communist
insurgencies in the developing world.74
During the 1960 presidential contest, Kennedy charged that
President Eisenhower’s frugality had allowed the Soviet Union to
surpass the United States in nearly every field of strategic endeavor—nuclear missile construction, conventional force modernization,
political and psychological warfare, and economic aid to developing
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
countries. The only way to address these “gaps,” Kennedy argued, was
to lavish economic, social, and technical assistance on developing
countries, while creating military organizations capable of defeating
Communist forces in both conventional and third world conflicts.
Kennedy’s platform appealed to Army leaders. Like much of official Washington, the Army accepted Rostow’s developmental theory at
face value. Kennedy’s call for the creation of more robust and “flexible” conventional military forces likewise paralleled the Army’s own
critique of Eisenhower’s defense policies, as expressed in two books
written by retired Army generals—The Uncertain Trumpet, by Maxwell
Taylor, and War and Peace in the Space Age, by James M. Gavin. The
result was that a multiplicity of factors—previous Army thinking about
counterguerrilla warfare and pacification, emerging academic theories
about politico-economic development and limited war, the continued
threat of Communist-backed insurgencies, and contemporary European
experience in colonial conflicts—all converged to influence Army
planners and doctrine writers in the waning days of the Eisenhower
During the closing months of 1960 the Army produced a number
of documents that reflected the prevailing trends. The first such document was a new edition of FM 7–100, The Infantry Division, published
in November. The manual incorporated for the first time a seven-page
section on counterguerrilla warfare that provided a condensed version of some of the principles first developed by Colonel Volckmann
nine years earlier. Although the manual made no reference to Maoist
revolutionary warfare, the resurrection of old, but still valid, doctrinal
principles signaled the Army’s rising interest in irregular warfare.76
A more forward-looking document appeared the following month
in the guise of “Strategic Army Study, 1970” (STARS–70). This report
offered a blueprint for how the Army might exploit the opportunity
offered by the presidential election to win a greater share of defense
resources. Army Chief of Staff General George H. Decker believed that
President-elect Kennedy would be receptive to constructive proposals
on how the United States could shed itself of the “political straight
jacket” created by Eisenhower’s policies in favor of a more “active forward military strategy” in which the United States could, with flexibility and precision, either deter, meet, or defeat every form of Communist
aggression. Decker maintained that the U.S. Army was “uniquely fitted
for and must take the lead in meeting the Communists face-to-face in
the struggle for freedom of the less developed countries.”77 Following
Rostow’s precepts, the study stated that a “revolution of rising expectations” was sweeping the third world. To meet the legitimate aspira165
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
tions of underdeveloped nations for prosperity while preventing any
drift toward communism, Decker argued that the United States should
“expand the role of the armed forces in contributing to political and
economic growth in underdeveloped countries.”78 Refocusing the
military assistance program on internal security and utilizing American
military resources to implement civic action and public welfare programs would, the Army asserted, “have the effect of insinuating the
political power of the United States into these countries,” thereby helping to stem any untoward radicalism that might derail progress toward
achieving democratic, capitalistic institutions.79
In practical terms, STARS–70 called for Army officers to broaden
their horizons and embrace a more activist role in world affairs. It
also recommended that the Army recruit more Special Forces personnel, raise three new divisions, and create two Cold War task forces.
One task force would be oriented toward Africa and the Middle East
while the other concentrated on Southeast Asia. Each would contain
9,000 men split among a reinforced airborne brigade, a Special Forces
group, an aviation element, and a logistical command. In addition
to providing training assistance in conventional, unconventional,
and counterguerrilla warfare, the airborne and Special Forces elements would be able to undertake independent operations should the
United States choose to intervene directly in another nation’s affairs,
while the civil affairs, engineer, medical, and psychological warfare
components provided humanitarian, socioeconomic development,
and reconstructive assistance. Such task forces would spearhead the
Army’s efforts to shape the destiny of the underdeveloped world.80
About the time General Decker approved the STARS–70 report,
the Special Warfare Division of the Office of the Deputy Chief of
Staff for Military Operations (ODCSOPS) produced a paper on
counterinsurgency operations that fully reflected the new policy
thrust. The study, “Counter Insurgency Operations: A Handbook for
the Suppression of Communist Guerrilla/Terrorist Operations,” represented a blend of American, British, and to a lesser extent, French,
influences.81 Although the handbook could be used by U.S. troops
in a foreign insurgency, the authors really intended the study as a
guide for U.S. advisory and assistance personnel, since they believed
that “it is neither politically feasible or operationally practicable to
entertain the use of U.S. conventional forces in any intervention role
within these numerous and widespread areas.” This reflected both
Eisenhower administration policy and an awareness of public antipathy for directly intervening in the internal affairs of foreign countries.
The handbook also asserted that
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
The use of major elements of foreign . . . troops to suppress such guerrilla/terrorist operations is neither practical from a military viewpoint nor psychologically feasible. These forces are generally unfamiliar with the customs, geography, language, and people of the area and have not been trained in the specific
techniques and tactics necessary for successful operations. The presence of
major bodies of foreign troops is unpalatable to the indigenous population and
discredits the government in power as a ‘puppet’ or ‘tool’ of the foreign imperialists incapable of ruling without the support of foreign troops.82
Consequently, the study advocated that the United States work primarily through its military assistance groups and small teams of specialists,
such as the task forces called for in STARS–70.
The ODCSOPS handbook stated that counterinsurgency was unlike
conventional war in that conventional war was largely destructive
while counterinsurgency revolved around mainly constructive actions
designed to redress whatever societal problems were causing unrest.
It further asserted that military force alone “cannot win the conflict
without extensive changes and reforms to eliminate the causes of the
dissension and revolt,” and it criticized most past counterinsurgency
efforts for focusing too narrowly on conventional military solutions
while failing both to redress grievances and to protect people from
guerrilla influence and intimidation. Consequently, the handbook,
echoing established American doctrine, called for the formulation of
a national politico-military plan that coordinated the actions of every
branch of government. To further such coordination, the handbook took
a page from the British in Malaya by advocating the establishment of
joint civil-military commands and pacification committees at every
layer of government down to the village level.83
Having established an overall strategy and the mechanisms needed
to execute it, the handbook offered a four-phase plan of operations.
During the first phase, government forces would enter a region slated
for pacification and establish local governments, pacification committees, and paramilitary self-defense militias. The government would also
create an elaborate intelligence and propaganda system, initiate economic rehabilitation programs, and impose a variety of population- and
resources-control measures, including a stringent food rationing system.
Although reforms designed to eliminate government corruption and
stimulate economic recovery would begin at the outset of the campaign,
the plan placed most of its emphasis on organizational and security measures and on short-term, high-impact programs rather than long-term
development projects as it believed that the latter were generally ineffective in a revolutionary environment. Phase two consisted of offensive
operations to break up and destroy large guerrilla concentrations and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
drive them away from populated areas. Other measures, including forcibly relocating people and creating “sanitary zones” cleared of human
habitation, would likewise serve to isolate the guerrillas. Military
operations during the third phase were similar, but targeted smaller
guerrilla bands and the enemy’s clandestine support structure, with
“stringent punishment” being meted out to persons harboring guerrillas.
Meanwhile, every effort would be made to continue to harass the guerrillas and make their situation untenable, especially by destroying “small
garden plots, fields and cattle stock held or used by guerrilla elements
in remote or sparsely populated regions.” These measures, coupled with
a strong propaganda campaign and offers of amnesty and rehabilitation,
would, the handbook authors hoped, break the back of the insurgent
movement. Once the military had cleared an area of guerrillas and their
politico-military apparatus, the government would initiate major socioeconomic reform programs during the fourth and final phase. The Army
would transfer most of the regular troops to pacify other areas, while
those who remained, together with local police and paramilitary forces,
would actively assist in the economic restoration effort.84
Operationally, the handbook called for continuous, aggressive
action, warning against passivity and overdispersion. Perhaps reflecting British experience in Malaya, the authors departed from previous
American doctrine by discouraging the use of large-scale operations,
which they believed were frequently ineffective. In the view of the
Special Warfare Division, operations of battalion size or larger should
be rare, with most actions being undertaken by infantry companies, platoons, and squads augmented by specially trained hunter-killer teams
and units of police, militia, and “galvanized guerrillas.” Heliborne
operations also played a critical role in official thinking, and, although
the paper declined to recommend specific tactics in recognition of the
need for flexibility, it endorsed the Army’s traditional formulation of
finding, fixing, fighting, and finishing the enemy.85
The ODCSOPS handbook heralded counterinsurgency’s resurgence
in official American military thought. On 8 December 1960, just one
week after the ODCSOPS had completed the handbook, the Department
of the Army elevated many similar ideas into official doctrine when
it approved for publication a new chapter to FM 100–1, Doctrinal
Guidance. Developed at the Command and General Staff College in
response to the National Security Council (NSC) directive requiring
the formulation of new doctrine, the chapter mirrored the handbook in
reflecting a mix of traditional American principles with the gleanings
of foreign experience. Titled “Military Operations Against Irregular
Forces,” the chapter differed from previously published doctrine in that
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
it placed guerrilla warfare firmly in the context of contemporary third
world insurgency, describing the social, political, and economic conditions that generally gave rise to revolutionary movements.86
Because FM 100–1 was devoted to propounding basic doctrinal
statements, the new chapter did not delve into the type of detail found
in the ODCSOPS handbook. Like the ODCSOPS piece, it stressed
the political aspects of counterinsurgency, stating that “military units
employed against irregular forces normally operate in an environment
which is inherently sensitive, both politically and militarily. The scope
and nature of missions assigned will frequently include political and
administrative aspects and objectives not usually considered normal to
military operations.”87 Cognizant of the fact that guerrilla movements
were usually the product, not the cause, of civil unrest, and that popular
support was vital to the success of insurgent and counterinsurgent alike,
the manual stressed that “the local government being supported by the
U.S., as well as U.S. forces, must present a concrete program which will
win popular support.” Such a program entailed a mixture of good troop
conduct and discipline, psychological warfare, political and administrative reform, relief and rehabilitation, and civic action, which the manual
defined as “any action performed by the military forces utilizing available human and material resources for the well-being and improvement
of the community.” The manual also reiterated civil affairs doctrine
in recommending that restrictions on civilian activity be as limited as
conditions would allow so as not to alienate the population, though it
permitted the imposition of sanctions if necessary.88
Operationally, the new chapter called for the conduct of a coordinated military, psychological, and intelligence campaign in terms
that were similar to the ODCSOPS handbook. The first step of any
campaign was to isolate the guerrilla from all sources of internal and
external support, including civilian supporters and the members of the
covert apparatus, whom the manual stated were often more dangerous
than the armed insurgents themselves. The military would seal the
nation’s borders, blockade guerrilla base areas, and clear areas sympathetic to the insurgency by removing the inhabitants. Population- and
resource-control measures, including stringent controls over the production and distribution of food, weapons, and medical supplies, would
further deny the guerrillas access to these vital commodities, as would
“extensive ground and air search for and destruction of irregular force
supply caches and installations.”89
Because allied forces would not likely have enough manpower to
conduct pacification operations everywhere simultaneously, the manual recommended that counterinsurgents divide the operational area into
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
subareas, each of which would be sealed, scoured, and pacified in turn
before moving to the next. This prescription was reminiscent of allied
operations during the Greek Civil War as well as the old French tache
d’huile system in which government control gradually spread across the
countryside like a drop of oil on water. Once an area had been selected
for pacification, security forces would seal the region’s perimeter while
other forces established strongpoints for the area control operations that
were to follow. In addition to reestablishing government authority and
quelling civil disturbances, the security forces would initiate an extensive psychological warfare and counterintelligence effort to sway opinion and attack the enemy’s covert apparatus. The military would also
conduct extensive ground and heliborne patrols, raids, and ambushes
to keep the enemy off-balance and on the move. Those enemy forces
willing to fight in open battle were to be surrounded and annihilated.
Smaller groups would be perpetually hounded by patrols composed of
regular soldiers, police, paramilitary, and special antiguerrilla formations. Operations would continue, supplemented by civil initiatives,
until the area had been fairly well cleared, at which time the bulk of the
regulars would move on to a new district, leaving behind enough troops
and paramilitary forces to provide security and assist the government’s
reconstructive efforts.90
Having described the general course of a campaign, the chapter
made several peripheral suggestions as to the conduct of counterirregular operations. It recommended maximum use of indigenous
manpower as soldiers, policemen, and village militiamen. The manual
likewise recommended that troops be kept in the same general area as
much as possible so as to reap the benefits that came with familiarity
with a locality’s political and military topography. In terms of training,
the manual indicated that troops slated for counterguerrilla service
receive an intensive course in small-unit tactics, long-range patrolling,
night movements, raids, ambushes, security, civil affairs, intelligence,
and police operations. Troop indoctrination courses, as well as country-specific language, cultural, and environmental training, were also
desirable. Finally, the chapter concluded with general remarks on the
logistical, intelligence, and civil affairs aspects of counterguerrilla
Published on 10 January 1961 as Change 1 to FM 100–1,
Doctrinal Guidance, “Military Operations Against Irregular Forces”
was an important document. Together with the ODCSOPS handbook,
it marked a dramatic shift from the generic counterguerrilla and rear
area security focus of previous doctrine to a new paradigm of third
world revolution and Maoist-style “people’s wars.” Both documents
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
were consistent with current trends in American political, strategic,
and developmental theory and with contemporary foreign thinking. As
such they represented the first steps toward the gradual reorientation of
doctrine to better meet the threats and challenges of the contemporary
world. And yet, while these documents introduced some new terms,
concepts, and techniques, what is perhaps most striking about the new
literature was how little of it was actually “new.” Many of the ideas,
concepts, and methods touted in the ODCSOPS handbook and the
insert to FM 100–1 had appeared ten years earlier in the now defunct
FM 31–20 of 1951 and were still represented to an extent in manuals
like FM 31–15 (1953), 100–5 (1954), and 41–10 (1957). Rather than
discard the lessons of previous experience, American doctrinal writers
had merely reframed them into a more contemporary context. Change
1 to FM 100–1 thus marked not just the birth of new ideas, but the
resurrection of old ones.
“Military Operations Against Irregular Forces” was the last doctrinal initiative to come to fruition under the Eisenhower administration.
Ten days after its publication, John F. Kennedy was sworn into office
as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. His elevation to the
presidency buoyed the spirits of many of the Army’s senior leaders
who believed that he would lift the Army out of the doldrums of the
Eisenhower years into a new place of bureaucratic and strategic prominence. In this, they would not be disappointed, and yet senior officers
would soon have cause to appreciate the old adage “be careful what
you wish for.” The vigorous new president and his civilian aides would
soon initiate a torrent of new programs and initiatives with regard to the
organization, administration, and doctrine of America’s armed forces
that would leave Army leaders scrambling to catch up. Although many
of Kennedy’s initiatives would be beneficial, they also included decisions that would ultimately lead to war in Vietnam. U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine would be at the very center of the coming vortex.
Ltrs, Russell Volckmann to Maj Tommy King, John F. Kennedy Center for Military
Assistance, 1 Aug 75, and to Beverly Lindsey, 21 Mar 69. Both in the History Office,
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, N.C. (hereafter cited as JFKSWC/
HO). Rod Paschall, “Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine: Who Needs It?” Parameters
15 (Autumn 1985): 42, 45; Johnny Stevens, “Russell William Volckmann,” Assembly
47 (April 1988): 148–49. After completing the drafts of the two manuals, Volckmann
helped organize guerrilla and counterguerrilla operations during the Korean War. In
1952 he returned to the United States where he became one of the founding fathers of
the U.S. Army’s Special Forces. He retired as a brigadier general in 1957.
For example, FM 31–20 contained several passages lifted virtually verbatim from
Greek counterguerrilla doctrine—doctrine that was itself based on German techniques.
Compare Greek General Staff, Suppression of Irregular Bandit Operations, c. 1947–
1948, pp. 15–16, Historians files, CMH, with FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla
Forces, 1951, p. 108.
McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, pp. 59–60; “German Tactics of Combating
Guerrillas,” Military Review 24 (June 1944): 104–06; Allied Force Headquarters,
“German Measures in Combating the Partisans,” Intelligence Notes 62 (6 June
1944): C-4 to C-6; Allied Force Headquarters, “German Instructions for Operations
Against Partisans,” Intelligence Notes 72 (5 September 1944): C-6 to C-7; Allied
Force Headquarters, “German Methods in Anti-partisan Warfare,” Intelligence Notes
78 (17 October 1944): C-7 to C-8; Great Britain, Imperial General Staff, Notes from
Theatres of War, no. 21, Partisans (War Office, 1945), pp. 9–30; Supreme Headquarters,
Allied Expeditionary Force, Combating the Guerrilla (1945); Translation, U.S. Army
Intelligence Division, Fighting the Guerrilla Bands, 1944.
For a listing of German monographs, see Historical Division, U.S. Army Europe,
Guide to Foreign Military Studies, 1945–54, Catalog and Index (HQ, U.S. Army,
Europe, 1954). Ofc, Ch, Army Field Forces, Training Bulletin 1, 8 Sep 50, p. 15, in 350.9
AFF Training Bulletins, CMH.
Kevin Soutor, “To Stem the Red Tide: The German Report Series and Its Effects
on American Defense Doctrine, 1948–1954,” Journal of Military History 57 (October
1993): 653–88; Memo, Brig Gen Robert McClure for Ch of Military History, 15 Mar
51, sub: Generation and Character of Guerrilla Resistance, 370.64, Office of Chief
of Special Warfare, 1951–54, RG 319, NARA. The two antiguerrilla pamphlets were
Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA Pam) 20–240, “Rear Area Security in Russia,”
distributed in manuscript form in July 1950 in response to the Korean situation but
not formally published until July 1951, and DA Pam 20–243, “German Antiguerrilla
Operations in the Balkans,” by Robert Kennedy, originally produced as a monograph
before being published as a pamphlet in August 1954. That Volckmann had access to
these monographs before their formal publication can be seen by comparing DA Pam
20–240, pp. 34, 36, 39, with FM 31–20, 1951, pp. 71–72. Some of the more important
German monographs produced by the Historical Division, U.S. Army, Europe, can be
found in the section of the select bibliography titled “Foreign Military Studies and
Monographs.” For examples of articles that derived lessons from German experience,
see Lloyd Marr, “Rear Area Security,” Military Review 31 (May 1951): 57–62; Hellmuth
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
Kreidel, “Agents and Propaganda in Partisan Warfare,” Military Review 39 (November
1959): 102–05; Thomas Collier, “Partisans, the Forgotten Force,” Infantry School
Quarterly (August–September 1960): 4–8; Joseph Bourdow, “Big War Guerrillas and
Counter-Guerrillas,” Army 13 (August 1962): 66–69. Other studies concerning the Axis
experience produced by either the Office of the Chief of Military History, the Army,
or some other Department of Defense agency can be found in the section of the select
bibliography titled “Studies and Monographs.” Privately published books available to
Army officers in the early 1950s included Heilbrunn, Partisan Warfare, and Laqueur,
Quotes from FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, p. iii, and see
also pp. 1, 12, 24, 27–30, 37, 41, 49–51.
Quotes from ibid., p. 63, and see also pp. 61, 64, 66.
Ibid., p. 65.
Ibid., pp. 61, 66–72, 74, 78–83.
Ibid., pp. 44–45.
Ibid., pp. 62, 65, 75–76.
Ibid., pp. 55, 71, 86, 93. The manual’s population- and resources-control measures
were in accord with international law. Compare, for example, the measures listed in FM
31–20, 1951, pp. 84–85, with the standards applied during the Nuremberg war crimes
trials as found in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals
Under Control Law Number 10 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1950),
First quote from FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, p. 61.
Second quote from ibid., p. 83.
First quote from ibid., p. 28. Second quote from ibid., p. 99, and see also pp. 52,
Quote from Arthur Murphy, “Principles of Anti-Guerrilla Warfare,” Infantry
School Quarterly 39 (July 1951): 59. Even Volckmann admitted that Japan’s retaliatory
measures, while generally counterproductive, had occasionally succeeded in turning
the Filipino population against his guerrillas. Volckmann, We Remained, pp. 151, 234.
As late as 1977 the U.S. government objected to efforts to amend the 1949 Geneva
Conventions so as to completely ban reprisals on the grounds that such measures were
indispensable in counterguerrilla warfare. Donald Wells, The Laws of Land Warfare: A
Guide to Army Manuals (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 44. A similar
dichotomy existed in doctrine written in 1951 for use by American guerrillas which,
while encouraging good conduct and the initiation of measures designed to win popular
support, also permitted the guerrillas to use reprisals, destruction, terror, and assassination to impose their will on the population. FM 31–21, Organization and Conduct of
Guerrilla Warfare, 1951, pp. 113–17.
FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, pp. 37, 62, 71–74, 102–03.
Compare security techniques as presented in the Army’s translation of Fighting the
Guerrilla Bands, pp. 36–46, with FM 31–20, 1951, pp. 85–91.
Quote from FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, p. 126, and see
also pp. 62–63, 78, 104–05, 124, 130, 134–35.
Ibid., pp. 83, 104, 117–24. Many of the ideas used to describe the special antiguerrilla units were drawn directly from Fighting the Guerrilla Bands, pp. 34–36.
FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, pp. 76–77.
Ibid., pp. 127–34.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Compare Fighting the Guerrilla Bands, pp. 11–12, 28–34, 63–65, with FM 31–20,
1951, pp. 105–17. Compare also Greek General Staff, Suppression of Irregular Bandit
Operations, c. 1947–1948, pp. 15–16, with FM 31–20, 1951, p. 108.
FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, pp. 109–13.
Ibid., pp. 113–17.
Ibid., pp. 103–04, 117.
Ibid., pp. 26, 86, 125–26.
AWC, Report of Conference of Commandants of Army Service Schools, 29
January–1 February 1951, p. 21; “Antiguerrilla Operations,” Officer’s Call 3 (March
1951): 1–15.
A “change” document alters, amends, or supplements an existing manual. The
Army issues a change when it believes that a modification is necessary but does not
warrant the printing of an entirely new manual. The substance of a change can vary
from minor editorial corrections to significant doctrinal statements. Though sometimes
ignored by historians, changes represent official doctrine and by regulation must be
incorporated immediately into all existing manuals.
Quote from FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, chg 1, 25 Jul 52, p.
9, and see also pp. 1–8.
First quote from FM 31–15, Operations Against Airborne Attack, Guerrilla
Action, and Infiltration, 1953, p. 43. Remaining quotes from ibid., p. 6, and see also
pp. 12–13, 44–45.
First and second quotes from ibid., p. 6. Third quote from FM 31–15, Operations
Against Airborne Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration, chg 1, 5 Nov 54, p. 2.
See also Study, Lt Col Russell Volckmann, Ofc, Ch of Psychological Warfare, Rear
Area Defense, 27 Aug 51, Historians files, CMH; AWC, Report of Conference of
Commandants of Army Service Schools, 29 January–1 February 1951, p. 31.
Quote from Franz Halder et al., Analysis of U.S. Field Service Regulations, P–133
(Historical Division, U.S. Army, Europe, 1953), pp. 9–10, Foreign Military Studies
Collection, MHI. Soutor, “Stem the Red Tide,” pp. 676–77.
The Army probably did not give Halder FM 31–20 because it lay outside his narrow focus on FM 100–5. Halder’s group began working in February 1952, five months
before the Army published Change 1 to FM 100–5. The Army probably never gave a
copy of the change to the Germans, and their final report, submitted in April 1953, does
not reflect any awareness of its existence.
Quote from FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, 1954, p. 133, and
see also pp. 58–59, 132.
Quote from ibid., p. 7, and see also pp. 4–6. Worth noting is that of the six missions the manual stated the Army was uniquely suited to perform, three—combating
guerrilla forces and suppressing revolutions, preventing enemy infiltration of friendly
areas, and occupying and controlling enemy territory and the populations therein—
were directly related to counterguerrilla and pacification operations. Although this
declaration did not imply that the Army actually devoted half of its time preparing for
such missions, their enumeration as fundamental Army tasks at least guaranteed them
some consideration. The Army’s other three tasks, all of which were listed before the
three “unconventional” missions, were defending against enemy land forces, attriting
enemy land forces through sustained pressure, and compelling the enemy’s ground
forces to mass, thereby enhancing their vulnerability to nuclear attack.
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
The Army had developed the concept of consolidation psywar during World War
II and included its techniques in its postwar training curriculums, but prior to 1955 the
Army had not actually included it in an official field manual. FM 33–5, Psychological
Warfare Operations, 1955, pp. 223, 229, 239.
Quote FM 27–10, The Law of Land Warfare, 1956, p. 9, and see also p. 19.
Quote from ibid., p. 23.
Quote from ibid., p. 145. The regulation further pointed out that according to
American law, any citizen who provided an enemy with weapons, money, supplies, or
intelligence could be tried and executed, a precedent that other countries could apply
against their own nationals who supported indigenous insurgent movements. Ibid., pp.
25–28, 31, 33–34.
Strom Thurmond, “CAMG Combat Support Axioms,” Military Review 38 (January
1959): 1, 7.
FM 41–10, Civil Affairs Military Government Operations, 1957, pp. 4–5, 7, 17–18,
66–67, 93–96.
Ibid., pp. 67, 72–73, 97–99, 109.
For American attitudes toward population relocation prior to 1941, see Birtle,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine. As illustrated in the preceding chapters, American military and political officials had exhibited mixed feelings toward population relocation
during the Greek, Philippine, and Korean civil wars. FM 31–20, 1951, p. 85, had listed
population evacuation as a possible tool but had assigned it no special significance,
and officers continued to be divided over its utility. Evidence for this can be seen in
reactions to a 1953 Operations Research Office study of counterguerrilla operations in
Korea, the Philippines, and Malaya. The study had recommended that “as far as possible, local citizens should be concentrated and employed in emergency governmental
programs in an effort to occupy them gainfully and reduce the danger of continuous
Communist agitation.” Maj. Gen. Harry M. Roper, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff,
G–3, for Research, Requirements, and Special Weapons, wrote that, while Army doctrine recognized the salutary effects of promoting employment, “this recommendation
appears to establish a basic principle of wholesale evacuation of the civilian population
to concentration camps and the impressment into labor units. This is not acceptable as
doctrine.” See Memo, Maj Gen Harry M. Roper, Dep Assistant Chief of Staff (ACS),
G–3, for Research, Requirements, and Special Weapons, for Ch of Military History, 13
Sep 54, sub: Technical Memorandum ORO–T–228, “Salient Operational Aspects of
Paramilitary Warfare in the Three Asian Areas,” Incl to Fred Barton, Salient Operational
Aspects of Paramilitary Warfare in Three Asian Areas, ORO T–228 (Chevy Chase, Md.:
Operations Research Office, 1953), copy in CMH. On the other hand, Col. Wendell W.
Perham, of the Office of Civil Affairs and Military Government, while sharing General
Roper’s concerns that morale “within the enclosure may become that of a captive rather
than of a protected population,” believed that the benefits derived from providing economic and social relief in a controlled atmosphere outweighed the disadvantages of relocation and resettlement, citing the Economic Development Corps as one such example.
Memo, Col Wendell W. Perham, Dep Ch, Ofc of Civil Affairs and Military Government,
for ACS, G–3, 15 Dec 54, sub: Technical Memorandum ORO–T–228, 040 ORO, G–3,
1954, RG 319, NARA.
Quote from Memo, Commandant, Psychological Warfare School, for Ch, Army
Field Forces, 17 Feb 54, sub: Transfer of FMs 31–20 and 31–21 to the Psychological
Warfare School. Memo, Ch, Army Field Forces, for Commandant, Psychological
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Warfare School, 4 Mar 54, sub: Transfer of FMs 31–20 and 31–21 to the Psychological
Warfare School. Both in 300.7 manuals, Office of Chief of Special Warfare, 1951–58,
RG 319, NARA. Memo, Joint Subsidiary Plans Div, JCS, for Ch, Psychological
Warfare, et al., 17 Jan 54, sub: Operational Requirements for Psychological and
Unconventional Warfare, 370.64, Office of Chief of Special Warfare, 1951–54, RG
319, NARA.
Alfred Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare: Its Origins—Psychological and
Unconventional Warfare, 1941–1952 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,
1982), p. 120.
FM 31–21, Guerrilla Warfare, 1955, p. 63.
Discussions of counterguerrilla operations in branch-level manuals during the
1950s were brief, consisting of little more than excerpts from either FM 31–20 (1951)
or FM 31–21 (1955). See, for example, FM 7–17, The Armored Infantry Company and
Battalion, 1951, pp. 545–51; FM 17–1, Armor Operations—Small Units, 1957, p. 318;
FM 17–100, The Armored Division and Combat Command, 1958, pp. 186, 220.
“Partisan Operations,” CGSC lecture 3362, 1949–1950, pp. 7–8; “Partisan
Operations,” CGSC lecture 3303, 1948–1949; “Partisan Operations,” CGSC lecture
64008/1, 1950–1951. All in the Combined Arms Research Library (CARL), Fort
Leavenworth, Kans. George Metcalf, “Offensive Partisan Warfare,” Military Review 32
(April 1952): 53; Report on Infantry School Instruction in Special Forces Operations,
atch to Memo, Lt Col Russell Volckmann, Special Opns Div, Ofc, Ch of Psychological
Warfare, for Brig Gen Robert A. McClure, Ch of Psychological Warfare, 24 Apr 51, sub:
Findings and Recommendations Regarding Special Operations Training, Fort Benning,
Ga., 370.64, Office of Chief of Special Warfare, 1951–54, RG 319, NARA; Infiltration
and Guerrilla Warfare, T–7800, 16 Dec 50 [Army General School, Course Material];
Combating Guerrilla Operations, 1951 [Engineer School, Course Material]; Security
and Defense Measures in Rear Areas, 1953 [Transportation School, Course Material];
Security of the Trains of Armored Units Against Guerrilla-type Activity, Committee
12, Armored Officer Advanced Course, Armored School, 1951–1952, p. 56. All in
Historians files, CMH.
Stephen Bowman, “The Evolution of United States Army Doctrine for
Counterinsurgency Warfare: From World War II to the Commitment of Combat Units
in Vietnam” (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1985), p. 78; AWC curriculum pamphlets,
1950–1960, MHI; Military Doctrines and Technique, General Directive and Problem
Directives for Courses Five, Six, and Seven, Phase 2, AWC, 1950–1951 curriculum, 4
Jan 51, pp. 48–54, MHI; Daniel Graham, Let’s Get Acquainted with Guerrillas (Student
paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1955–1956), p. 3.
Ironically, during the late 1950s ROTCM 145–60 provided some of the best coverage of counterinsurgency in Army manuals, since it had been based largely on the
original FM 31–20 of 1951, rather than the less inspiring manuals of the later years.
See Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Manual (ROTCM) 145–60, Small Unit Tactics,
Including Communications, 1954, pp. 414–18, and republished in 1958, pp. 402–16.
See, for example, Program of Instruction (POI), Military Government Advanced
Course, Provost Marshal General’s School, Camp Gordon, Ga., Nov 54; Rear Area
Defense, Lesson Plan MG 1783, Provost Marshal General’s School, 1954; Unit and
Team Tactics, Lesson Plan 1210, Civil Affairs and Military Government School, 1958;
German and Japanese CAMG in World War Two, Lesson Plan 1103, Civil Affairs and
Military Government School, 1958; Defense of Rear Areas, Adjutant General’s School,
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
Special Text (ST) 12–170, 1958; Defense of Rear Areas, U.S. Army, ST 55–190, 1958.
All in Historians files, CMH.
Research sponsored by the Army and other Department of Defense agencies produced a number of studies regarding Communist Chinese theories of guerrilla warfare
during the 1950s. See the “Studies and Monographs” section of the select bibliography for examples. Other discussions of Communist tactics include Robert Rigg, Red
Chinese Fighting Hordes (Harrisburg, Pa.: Military Service Publishing Co., 1952), pp.
58, 180–82, 187–90, 224–27; Robert Rigg, “Red Parallel: The Tactics of Ho and Mao,”
U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 5 (January 1955): 28–31; S. J. Watson, “A Study
of Revolution,” Military Review 35 (May 1955): 7–14; Gene Hanrahan, “The Chinese
Red Army and Guerrilla Warfare,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 1 (February
1951): 10–13; Edward Downey, “Theory of Guerrilla Warfare,” Military Review 39
(May 1959): 53–54; George Jordan, “Objectives and Methods of Communist Warfare,”
Military Review 39 (January 1960): 50–59.
Quoted words from Beebe, “Beating the Guerrilla,” p. 18. For examples of articles
and student papers that related these themes, see “War Against Partisans,” Military Review
38 (June 1958): 88; Samuel B. Griffith, “Guerrilla,” Antiaircraft Journal 93 (September–
October 1950): 15–18, and (November–December 1950): 50–53; Murphy, “Principles
of Anti-Guerrilla Warfare”; “Guerrilla Warfare,” Military Review 37 (September 1957):
95–101; Virgil Ney, “Guerrilla War and Modern Strategy,” Orbis (Spring 1958): 66–83;
Bashore, “Dual Strategy”; Collier, “Partisans”; Bruce Palmer, Jr., The Modern Role of
Unconventional Warfare (Student paper, AWC, 1952), 370.64, Office of Chief of Special
Warfare, RG 319, NARA; John Roddy, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare” (Student thesis, AWC,
1955); Thomas Williams, Critique of Mao’s ‘On the Protracted War’ (Student paper,
AWC, 1959); Robert Mathe, “Revolutionary War” (Student thesis, AWC, 1959); Edgar
McGee, Small Unit Defense Against Guerrilla Forces (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry
School, 1955–56); William Tausch, What Should Be the Anti-guerrilla Warfare Doctrine
for the Battle Group? (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1958); Lloyd Van Court,
“Counterguerrilla Operations with Intelligence Support” (Student thesis, AWC, 1957);
William Dodds, “Anti-Guerrilla Warfare” (Student thesis, AWC, 1955).
Booth, “The Pattern That Got Lost,” pp. 62–63; Waller Booth, “Operation
Swamprat,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 1 (October 1950): 23–26. For another
example of the early use of guerrillas in an Army exercise, see Robert Rigg, “The
Guerrilla: A Factor in War,” Armored Cavalry Journal 58 (November 1949): 4. For an
early proposal regarding counterguerrilla training, see Memo, Lt Col Adams for Adj
Gen, 3 Jul 50, sub: Proposed Anti-guerrilla Training, with atch, 4th Ind, HQ, Infantry
Center, for Ch, Army Field Forces, 12 Sep 50, sub: Proposed Anti-guerrilla Training,
Historians files, CMH.
Memos, Ofc, Ch of Psychological Warfare, for ACS, G–3, 2 Mar 55, sub:
Adequacy of Antiguerrilla Training in the Army, and ACS, G–3, for CG, CONARC, 14
Mar 55, sub: Anti-guerrilla Training. Both in 040 ORO, G–3, 1955, RG 319, NARA.
Atch to Memo, Lt Gen James E. Moore, Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations
(DCSOPS), for CSA, 31 Jul 58, sub: U.S. Army Guerrilla Warfare Activities, 370.64,
CSA, 1948–62, RG 319, NARA; Army Training Program (ATP) 7–200, Army Training
Program for Infantry Rifle Company and Airborne Infantry Rifle Company, 21 Apr 54,
p. 25; Army Subject Schedule (ASubjScd) 21–26, Squad Patrolling, 5 Jul 55; ASubjScd
7–2, Rifle Squad Tactical Training, 22 Aug 55; ASubjScd 7–2, Rifle Squad Tactical
Training, 20 Mar 59; ASubjScd 21–16, Anti-infiltration and Antiguerrilla Warfare
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Training, 29 Sep 55; ASubjScd 33–11, Anti-infiltration and Antiguerrilla Training, 22
Jun 56; Richard Rogers, Small Unit Defense Against Guerrillas (Student paper, IOAC,
Infantry School, 1955–56), pp. 10–11; Memo, Col Frank W. Norris, Secretary of the
General Staff (SGS), for Col Robert G. Fergusson, Naval War College, 29 Nov 60,
370.64, CSA, 1955–62, RG 319, NARA.
ASubjScd 30–38, Population Control, 1956; McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft,
p. 51; Hogan, Raiders or Elite Infantry, pp. 139–40; FM 21–50, Ranger Training, 1957,
pp. 6–7; An. B, Brief History of Ranger Course, atch to Rpt, Infantry School, 16 Feb
70, sub: Mandatory Ranger Training, CONARC, RG 338, NARA. Counterguerrilla
training advice could be found in such publications as FM 31–20, Operations Against
Guerrilla Forces, 1951, pp. 122–24, 139–41; FM 31–15, Operations Against Airborne
Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration, 1953, pp. 76–78; Collier, “Partisans,” pp. 7–8;
FM 30–101, Aggressor, The Maneuver Enemy, 1959, pp. 82–84; FM 30–104, Aggressor
Representation, 1953, pp. 3–5, 42–43; FM 30–102, Handbook on Aggressor Military
Forces, chg 1, Jul 48, and subsequent editions of this manual: Aug 50, p. 137; Mar 51,
p. 137; Feb 59, p. 150–54; and Jun 60, pp. 164–69.
Douglas Stickley, Jr., Are We Giving Just ‘Lip Service’ to Night Training? (Student
paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1955–56).
Quote from FM 30–104, Aggressor Representation, 1953, p. 42. Lloyd Norman
and John Spore, “Big Push in Guerrilla Warfare,” Army 12 (March 1962): 36.
Charles Simpson, Inside the Green Berets: The First Thirty Years (Novato, Calif.:
Presidio, 1983), pp. 44–46; Dillon, Concept for Antiguerrilla Operations, pp. 3–4;
Tropic Lightning, 1 Oct 41–1 Oct 66, 25th Infantry Division (n.p., n.d.), pp. 148–54.
Donald Carter, “From G.I. to Atomic Soldier: The Development of U.S. Army
Tactical Doctrine, 1945–1956” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1987), pp. 55, 121–
24, 135–38, 159, 188; W. W. Culp, “Resident Courses of Instruction,” Military Review
36 (May 1956): 17, 20. In 1956 special operations instruction accounted for 42 of the
1,219 hours in Leavenworth’s regular course. This should not be minimized because it
represented a sixfold increase over prior years and placed special operations ninth out
of the twenty-six subjects covered at Leavenworth in terms of total course time. On the
other hand, the special operations course virtually ignored counterguerrilla warfare.
Carter, “G.I. to Atomic Soldier,” pp. 170–78; Bowman, “Evolution of Army
Doctrine,” p. 74. One of the reasons that Assistant Chief of Staff, G–3, Maj. Gen. James
M. Gavin, gave for rejecting proposals in 1954 for creating special counterguerrilla units
in the Army’s force structure was that the Army was already heavily engaged in restructuring for atomic war and did not have the resources to create additional specialized
formations. Other reasons included a belief that conventional troops could effectively
combat guerrillas, especially if they were properly trained and organized for theater
conditions, and America’s policy of relying on indigenous forces as the first line of
defense against Communist irregulars. Memos, G–3 for G–2, 2 Apr 54, sub: Guerrilla
Type Warfare, and G–2 for G–3, c. 1954, sub: Guerrilla Type Warfare; MFR, G–3, c. Apr
54, sub: Guerrilla Type Warfare. All in 370.64, G–3, 1954, RG 319, NARA. Memo, Col
Fitzhugh H. Chandler, Chairman, Project Advisory Gp Parabel, for the ACS, G–3, 20
Oct 54, sub: Periodic Report on Project Parabel, 040, G–3, 1954, RG 319, NARA.
George Lincoln and Amos Jordan, Jr., “Limited War and the Scholars,” Military
Review 37 (January 1958): 50–60; William Olson, “The Concept of Small Wars,” Small
Wars and Insurgencies 1 (April 1990): 39–46; Michael Cannon, “The Development
of the American Theory of Limited War, 1945–63,” Armed Forces and Society 9 (Fall
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
1992): 78–80; Harry Coles, “Strategic Studies Since 1945, the Era of Overthink,”
Military Review 53 (April 1973): 6. The two books were Robert Osgood, Limited War:
The Challenge to American Strategy (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1957),
and Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Harper & Bros.,
First quote from “Readiness for the Little War, Optimum Integrated Strategy,”
Military Review 37 (April 1957): 23. Other quotes from ibid., p. 26. Osgood, Limited
War, p. 237.
Quote from “Readiness for the Little War,” p. 25, and see also pp. 20–21.
Donald Howard, “Anti-Guerrilla Operations in Asia” (Student thesis, AWC, 1956),
p. 27. Harold Clem, Collective Defense and Foreign Assistance (Washington, D.C.:
Industrial College of the Armed Forces, 1968), p. 117; Rpt, JCS, Sep 63, sub: Development
Status of Military Counterinsurgency Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces,
as of 1 August 1963, p. V-157; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 86, 88; McClintock,
Instruments of Statecraft, pp. 188–89; Memo, Special Gp, Counterinsurgency, for the
President, 20 Jul 62, sub: Report of the Committee on Police Assistance Programs, p.
1, Historians files, CMH.
United States President’s Committee To Study the United States Military Assistance
Program, vol. 2, Supplement to the Committee Report (Washington, D.C: Government
Printing Office, 1959), pp. 56–58.
Willard Barber and C. Neale Ronning, Internal Security and Military Power,
Counterinsurgency and Civic Action in Latin America (Columbus: Ohio State University
Press, 1966), pp. 65–66, 71, 74, 78–84; John DePauw and George Luz, eds., Winning
the Peace: The Strategic Implications of Military Civic Action (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.:
Strategic Studies Institute, 1990), p. 10; Kyre and Kyre, Military Occupation, pp. 14–15;
Edward Glick, Peaceful Conflict: The Non-Military Use of the Military (Harrisburg, Pa.:
Stackpole Books, 1967), pp. 68–69.
Special Operations Research Office (SORO), Symposium Proceedings. The
U.S. Army’s Limited-War Mission and Social Science Research (Washington, D.C.:
American University, 1962), p. 74; Msg, DEF 976945 to U.S. Commander in Chief,
Europe (USCINCEUR), et al., 11 May 60, 370.64, CSA, 1955–62, RG 319, NARA;
Harry Walterhouse, A Time to Build: Military Civic Action—Medium for Economic
Development and Social Reform (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1964),
p. 116.
First quote from Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, p. 19. Second quote from Memo,
SGS for General Lemnitzer, 9 Sep 58, sub: Army Guerrilla Warfare Activities, 370.64,
CSA, 1948–62, RG 319, NARA. Third quote from Christopher Cheng, Airmobility: The
Development of a Doctrine (Westport, Conn.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1994), p. 72. Memo,
Brig Gen Charles H. Bonesteel, SGS, for DCSOPS, 10 Jul 58, sub: U.S. Army Guerrilla
Warfare Activities, 370.64, 1955–62, RG 319, NARA; Ltr, George H. Roderick, Actg
Secy of the Army, to Secy of Def, 30 Dec 60, sub: Counter-Guerrilla Training Under
the Military Assistance Program, 370.64, CSA, 1955–62, RG 319, NARA; Memo,
Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD), Internal Security Affairs (ISA), for Chairman,
JCS, 5 May 60, sub: Counterguerrilla Training Provided Under the MAP; Briefing Paper
for Chairman, JCS, on a Report by the J–5 Operations Deputies Meeting, Tuesday, 13
September 1960, agenda item 3. Both in 3360, JCS, RG 218, NARA. Previous Army
instruction on counterguerrilla operations and small wars had been given as subsets of
other courses.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Schafer, Deadly Paradigm, p. 17; NSC 90, A Report to the National Security
Council by the Secretary of State on Collaboration with Friendly Governments on
Operations Against Guerrillas, 26 Oct 50, 370.64, G–3, 1950–55, RG 319, NARA.
Quote from Paul Linebarger, “They Call ’Em Bandits in Malaya,” U.S. Army
Combat Forces Journal 1 (January 1951): 29. Memo, Maj Gen John Williams, ACS
for Intelligence, 4 Mar 60, sub: U.S. Military Forces Benefits Resulting from British
Anti-guerrilla Warfare in Malaya, Historians files, CMH. About a half-dozen articles
on Malaya appeared in Army journals during the 1950s, while other articles made
reference to it. A few students in Army schools wrote papers on the British experience, and the Army either commissioned or had access to a number of other studies
on Malaya. For examples of studies, see the “Studies and Monographs” section of the
select bibliography.
For examples of Army-sponsored translations, studies, or lectures on Indochina,
see Translation, Army G–2, Combat Methods of the Viet Minh in Villages, 1952;
Translation, Army G–2, Tactics and Combat Methods of the Viet Minh, 1953;
Translation, Army G–2, Practical Guide for Pacification, 1959; Translation, Army
G–2, Special Training in Counterguerrilla Warfare, 1959; George Tanham, “The Likely
Nature of Enemy Operational Concepts in Asia,” AWC lecture, 1958. All at MHI. See
also George Tanham, Doctrine and Tactics of Revolutionary Warfare: The Viet Minh
in Indochina, RM 2395 (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1959); Andre Souyris, “An
Effective Counterguerrilla Procedure,” Military Review 36 (March 1957): 86–90; Lamar
Prosser, “The Bloody Lessons of Indochina,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal 5 (June
1955): 23–30; Paul Linebarger, “Indochina: The Bleeding War,” in Modern Guerrilla
Warfare, ed. Osanka, pp. 245–52; Bernard Fall, “Communist Organization and Tactics,”
Military Review 36 (October 1956): 1–11; idem, “Indochina, The Last Year of the War,
The Navarre Plan,” Military Review 36 (December 1956): 48–56.
Considering that the doctrine of guerre revolutionnaire only gradually emerged in
French publications between 1956 and 1961, the U.S. Army moved quickly to acquire
and translate these texts. The Army even translated the entire February–March 1957
issue of the Revue Militaire d’Information, which was devoted to guerre revolutionnaire. See Translation, Army G–2, Revolutionary Warfare, 1958, MHI; Ximenes,
“Revolutionary Warfare,” Military Review 37 (August 1957): 103–08; Colonel
Nemo, “The Place of Guerrilla Action in War,” Military Review 37 (November 1957):
99–107. American analyses of French doctrine included Robert Rigg, “Twilight
War,” Military Review 40 (November 1960): 28–32; George Kelly, “Revolutionary
War and Psychological Action,” Military Review 40 (October 1960): 4–13; Mathe,
“Revolutionary War”; SORO, Insurgents and Counterinsurgent Strengths and Tactics
in Tunisia, 1952–1956 (Washington, D.C.: SORO, 1956). For a general discussion
of French doctrine, see Shafer, Deadly Paradigm, pp. 138–65, and Chester Cooper,
The American Experience with Pacification in Vietnam, 3 vols. (Institute for Defense
Analyses, 1972), 3:95–113.
First quote from Max Millikin and Walt Rostow, A Proposal: Key to an Effective
Foreign Policy (New York: Harper & Bros., 1957), p. 6. Second quoted words from Walt
Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. 7. Geoffrey Fairbairn, “Approaches to CounterInsurgency Thinking Since 1947,” South-East Asian Spectrum 2 (January 1974): 27.
For a general discussion and critique of American theories of political development, see
Packenham, Liberal America; Shafer, Deadly Paradigm, pp. 48–85.
The Development of Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1945–1960
John F. Kennedy, The Strategy of Peace (New York: Harper & Bros., 1960), pp.
60–64; Latham, Modernization as Ideology, pp. 1–8, 30–45, 56–66.
Maxwell Taylor, The Uncertain Trumpet (New York: Harper & Bros., 1960); James
Gavin, War and Peace in the Space Age (New York: Harper & Bros., 1958); Russell
Weigley, History of the United States Army (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1984), p. 526; Coles, “Strategic Studies,” pp. 8–9.
FM 7–100, The Infantry Division, 1960, pp. 247–54.
First quote from Presentation, General Decker to General Staff Council, 25 Nov
60, sub: The U.S. Army and National Security, 1960–70, p. 11, DCSOPS, 1960, RG 319,
NARA (hereafter cited as Decker Presentation). Other quotes from ibid., p. ii.
First quote from Rpt, U.S. Army, 7 Dec 60, sub: Strategic Army Study (STARS–
70), the U.S. Army and National Security, 1960–70, p. 32, DCSOPS, 1961, RG 319,
NARA (hereafter cited as STARS–70). Second quote from Decker Presentation, p. 13.
Quote from STARS–70, p. 116.
Decker Presentation, pp. ii, 16–18; STARS–70, pp. 129–31, 143–44.
French influence was apparent in a general way in the depiction of the problem
as a revolutionary, largely unconventional struggle against international communism.
British influence was more discernable, as certain terms employed in the manuscript,
like special police, special constables, and special intelligence personnel were all terms
employed by the British. McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, p. 215.
Quotes from Special Warfare Division, ODCSOPS, Counter Insurgency Operations:
A Handbook for the Suppression of Communist Guerrilla/Terrorist Operations, 1 Dec
60, pp. 2–3, and see also p. 25, Historians files, CMH.
Quote from ibid., p. 21, and see also pp. 2, 22, 40–41.
Quotes from ibid., p. 40, and see also pp. 22–26, 38–41.
Quote from ibid., p. 30, and see also pp. 22–26, 31–34, 45.
Memo, Lt Gen John C. Oakes, DCSOPS, for ASD, Financial Management (FM),
29 Nov 60, sub: Counter-Guerrilla Activities; Memo, Brig Gen Edward G. Lansdale,
Dep Asst to the Secy of Def (Special Opns), for Asst Secy of the Army George H.
Roderick, 21 Oct 60, sub: Counter-Guerrilla Activities; Memo, Lt Gen John C. Oakes,
DCSOPS, for ASD (FM), 21 Dec 60, sub: Counter-Guerrilla Activities. All in 370.64,
CSA, RG 319, NARA. Talking Paper, Unconventional Warfare Br, J–5, JCS, 21 Feb 61,
sub: Service Guerrilla Warfare and Counterguerrilla Warfare Capabilities and Training,
031.1, Nov 60–Dec 61, Chairman Lemnitzer file, JCS, RG 218, NARA; FM 100–1,
Doctrinal Guidance, chg 1, 10 Jan 61, p. 23-102.
Quote from FM 100–1, Doctrinal Guidance, chg 1, 10 Jan 61, p. 23-101.
First quote from ibid., p. 23-103. Second quote from ibid., p. 23-902, and see also
pp. 23-104, 23-901.
Quote from ibid., p. 23-105, and see also pp. 23-103, 23-104.
Ibid., pp. 23-105, 23-106, 23-701.
Ibid., pp. 23-103, 23-104, 23-501, 23-502.
Cold War Contingency
Operations, 1958–1965
President Eisenhower may not have wanted to involve U.S.
ground forces in foreign imbroglios, but neither he nor his successors could ignore the utility of military power in conducting foreign
policy. Nor could the Army, as both history and prudence dictated
that it be prepared to undertake limited contingency operations in
support of American diplomacy. After the Korean War the Army tried
to improve its capability for performing contingency missions, at
least to the extent permitted by the limited budgets of the Eisenhower
years. Most of these arrangements were of a conventional nature and
were undertaken to facilitate the Army’s capacity either to wage war
or to reinforce forward-deployed forces in Germany and Korea. Yet
any improvements in the Army’s ability to project power also made
it a more capable body for performing missions of a diplomatic or
constabulary nature. These initiatives were still in their infancy when
President Eisenhower put the Army’s skills in coercive diplomacy to
the test by sending it to intervene in the Lebanese Civil War.
Lebanon, 1958
America’s involvement in the Lebanese Civil War stemmed from
President Eisenhower’s desire to prevent the wave of radical, antiWestern nationalism that was sweeping through the Middle East in the
mid-1950s from engulfing Lebanon, a nation riven by deep political,
factional, and religious conflicts. Concerned that the Soviet Union was
exploiting Arab nationalism to cover Communist activity in the region,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
in 1957 Eisenhower declared that the United States would provide military assistance to any Middle Eastern nation threatened by international
communism. Camille Chamoun, the pro-Western, Christian president
of Lebanon, was the only Arab leader to embrace the Eisenhower
Doctrine. This action, however, inflamed Lebanon’s Muslim community, which accused Chamoun of violating the country’s neutralist policies that had kept that deeply divided country at peace. (Map 8)
Charges of fraud in Lebanon’s 1957 legislative elections and
Chamoun’s ambition to be reelected for a second term in 1958 despite
constitutional prohibitions heightened tensions within Lebanon. So too
did the announcement in February 1958 by Egypt, Syria, and Yemen
that they were forming a United Arab Republic (UAR), an entity that
both Eisenhower and Chamoun regarded with suspicion, but which
was warmly received by proponents of pan-Arabism in Lebanon. The
situation came to a head in May when one of Chamoun’s critics was
assassinated. Rioting erupted in the Lebanese capital of Beirut that
quickly took on the trappings of a civil war. The Lebanese Army under
the command of General Fuad Shihab adopted a neutral stance, guarding government buildings but otherwise standing aside as Chamoun’s
supporters and opponents battled in the streets. Chamoun accused the
United Arab Republic of arming his opponents and inflaming Muslim
sentiments with radio broadcasts calling for Lebanon’s absorption
into the new pan-Arab state, and when UAR sympathizers overthrew
the pro-Western ruler of Iraq, Chamoun used the incident to request
American intervention on 14 July. Fearing that a similar coup might
occur in Lebanon, Eisenhower immediately ordered U.S. troops to
Beirut, despite Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force General Nathan F.
Twining’s warning that “we may be there for ten years or longer.”1
The celerity with which the president acted caught the armed forces
only partially prepared. Consequently, U.S. troops entered Lebanon in
piecemeal fashion, a dangerous maneuver given the fact that the Lebanese
Army might well have chosen to defend Lebanon’s territorial sovereignty
despite Chamoun’s plea for intervention. Fortunately, the first troops to
wade ashore on 15 July—the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines—faced nothing
more dangerous than bikini-clad women and boys aggressively hawking
bottles of soda pop. After securing a beachhead that included the national
airport, the marines peacefully entered Beirut the following day escorted
by the Lebanese Army, a development made possible only by lastminute negotiations between the expedition commander, Admiral James
L. Holloway, Jr.; U.S. Ambassador Robert M. McClintock; and General
Shihab that narrowly averted a clash between American and Lebanese
forces. Meanwhile, more marines streamed into Lebanon, followed on 19
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
Beirut International
Map 8
July by soldiers from the 24th Infantry Division’s 187th Airborne Battle
Group. Additional 24th Division units arrived in ensuing days until the
United States had approximately 14,000 men on the ground—over 8,000
soldiers and nearly 6,000 marines—not counting air units and the U.S.
Sixth Fleet offshore.2
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Soldiers gain their bearings in Lebanon.
Eisenhower gave the military a threefold mission. The first task, to
protect American life and property, was concrete and easily achieved.
Thanks to the cooperation of Lebanese authorities, the United States
had no trouble placing guards at American facilities as well as other
vital installations. The second goal, to dissuade either the United Arab
Republic or the Soviet Union from meddling in Lebanon’s internal
affairs, was more nebulous but readily achieved, since neither entity
made any overt moves to intervene. The president’s final objective,
to thwart any attempt to overthrow the Lebanese government, proved
the thorniest. Eisenhower hoped to achieve stability without having to
commit U.S. forces in direct support of any particular political faction.
Of course, by using U.S. forces to protect the government, the United
States had already meddled in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Nevertheless,
Eisenhower maintained some room for maneuver by refusing to endorse
Chamoun’s bid for a second term.3
Although Marine patrols occasionally traveled as far as 32 kilometers inland, for the most part U.S. forces operated in a narrow
area 20 kilometers wide and 16 kilometers deep that included Beirut,
the international airport, and the landing beaches. By mutual agreement, most Americans remained outside of the city and confined
their activities to garrisoning key facilities and conducting combined
patrols with the Lebanese Army along roads the Americans used to
maintain communications between their outposts. The Lebanese Army
assumed positions between the Americans and those sections of Beirut
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
controlled by radical Muslim elements, thereby minimizing the
danger of a clash. Although the
situation was sometimes tense and
always unpredictable, the soldiers
soon settled into a fairly uneventful routine of patrol and sentry
duty. Snipers frequently menaced
the troops, but no conflict of any
size developed, thanks to Shihab’s
buffer forces and to strict rules of
engagement. These rules prohibited U.S. soldiers from shooting
unless they were fired upon, and
then only if they could clearly
identify the source of the fire and
An American and Lebanese
respond without unduly risking
man a joint checkpoint.
innocent lives.4
The expeditionary force also tried to discourage confrontation by
overawing potential adversaries. Heavily armored patrols, live-fire
exhibitions, and choreographed training exercises all served to demonstrate American power. Strict codes of conduct that demanded good
behavior, neat uniforms, and correct martial bearing likewise helped
impress the population. U.S. efforts to influence the Lebanese Army
were less successful, as the Lebanese politely declined most offers of
U.S. training assistance.5
Two weeks after the intervention began, Lebanon held presidential
elections. Under American pressure, Chamoun did not run and instead
supported Shihab, who won the election and quickly set about creating a compromise cabinet. Shihab’s reputation for neutrality and his
efforts to reach out to all sides mollified most, though not all, of the
opposition. Unrest continued, albeit at increasingly lower levels, until
September when pro-UAR elements inside Beirut finally disbanded.
By the end of the month the United States withdrew all of the marines
from Lebanon. The Army contingent soldiered on for another month
before completing the withdrawal on 25 October. Shortly thereafter,
Shihab renounced the Eisenhower Doctrine.6
In the words of Ambassador McClintock, the Lebanon intervention proved to be “that rarest of military miracles: the making of an
omelet without breaking the eggs.” In just 102 days the United States
had stopped the fighting and paved the way for peaceful elections and
a constitutional resolution to the crisis. The price of success was $200
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
million, not counting millions more in economic and military aid, and
one American life. As far as was known, U.S. forces did not cause a single casualty. A wise policy of not backing Chamoun’s bid for a second
term, capable negotiating on the part of American diplomatic personnel, a cautious employment of U.S. ground forces, and the indispensable support provided by the Lebanese Army under General Shihab
had, along with a good deal of luck, facilitated the positive outcome.
The brief intervention had not resolved Lebanon’s deep social and
sectarian problems, fissures that would eventually erupt into renewed
civil war and foreign intervention in the 1970s and 1980s. But for the
present, the intervention had achieved its purpose.7
Although the Army had performed well, the operation nevertheless revealed many weaknesses in conception and execution. Many of
the troubles that plagued the intervention were recurring problems that
pertained to all forms of contingency operations. Included among the
lessons learned in Lebanon were the need for more detailed, yet flexible, plans; the necessity of adhering to proper regimens governing the
loading and shipping of equipment; and the benefits to be gained by
frequently practicing for contingency operations. Interservice coordination, though it improved over the course of the operation, had been
weak at the outset, particularly since the plans had failed to provide
for an overall ground force commander. Rather, the Marine force commander, Brig. Gen. Sidney S. Wade, and the Army contingent commander, Brig. Gen. David W. Gray, had operated independently under
the loose coordination of Admiral Holloway until 24 July, nine days
into the operation, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff finally sent Army
Maj. Gen. Paul D. Adams to oversee the land effort.8
The command oversight mirrored other problems that, taken
together, had seriously compromised the ability of the armed forces
to act as an effective instrument of national policy during the early
days of the intervention. To begin with, there had been virtually no
direct communication between the Navy and Ambassador McClintock
during the initial hours of the operation. The communication breakdown made adjusting military plans to changing political realities
difficult and could easily have produced grave consequences. The
eventual establishment of a single ground commander in the person of
General Adams and the creation of a Lebanese-American Civil Affairs
Commission with representatives from the Lebanese government, the
embassy, and the American military greatly facilitated coordination,
as did the arrival of Deputy Under Secretary of State Robert Murphy
as President Eisenhower’s special representative. Billed as a “five-star
diplomat” in a theater in which the highest-ranking military officer
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
A U.S. tank clears away an insurgent roadblock.
(Admiral Holloway) was of four-star rank, Murphy was in a position
to oversee both the ambassador and the armed forces, thereby unifying
the politico-military effort.9
Though the command structure functioned adequately in the end,
logistical issues were an enduring problem. The Army’s logistical system was geared toward pushing large quantities of supplies forward
in support of combat operations on hostile shores, and it proved too
cumbersome and inflexible for a limited contingency in which there
was virtually no fighting. Indeed, zealous logisticians soon buried the
small intervention force under nearly 50,000 tons of supplies. Storing
and handling this vast mountain of equipment was a major headache,
as was the task of protecting it against enterprising Lebanese pilferers. Because of the paucity of combat troops in Lebanon, General
Gray required supply and service personnel to protect the depots, with
unhappy results. Despite the fact that doctrine had long required that
support troops be prepared to defend themselves against infiltrators and
irregulars, the service elements loudly protested security details, which
they performed with indifference.
Unimaginative thinking with regard to security also manifested itself
in the initial plans for the defense of the Army’s main base in Lebanon,
the international airport. General Gray’s staff wanted to disperse U.S.
paratroopers in company-size packets around the airport as called for in
conventional doctrine for the defense of an airfield. When he learned of
this, Gray immediately redrew the plans to create a much tighter perimeter
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
designed to stop snipers, fanatics, and small bands of infiltrators—the type
of threat he believed posed the greatest danger to his forces. The alteration
was a wise one, though it illustrated the lack of forethought Gray’s planners
had given to the unconventional aspects of their mission.
Planning was most inadequate in the realms of civil affairs and intelligence. The Army entered Lebanon without either a status of forces
agreement between the United States and Lebanon—a major impediment to smooth relations when operating inside a sovereign country—or
any detailed information as to the political and military situation on the
ground. Fortunately, the U.S. embassy in Beirut was still functioning and
was able to provide the military with a great deal of assistance on political and intelligence matters, without which the expedition would have
faced grave difficulties. Although the Army successfully implemented its
traditional creed of good conduct by enforcing troop discipline, by providing humanitarian assistance, and by compensating Lebanese property
owners for damages and inconveniences, it concluded from the experience that future intervention forces must be given larger civil affairs
staffs and more detailed politico-military intelligence.10
Perhaps the most embarrassing failure occurred in public relations.
Although the United States Information Service (USIS) was in charge
of the overall public information effort, each of the military services
was to provide its own public affairs staff to help manage the information “war” in Lebanon. Unfortunately, General Gray had decided not
to include his public information staff in the initial contingent that
deployed to Lebanon since none of his public affairs personnel were
parachute qualified. This left him without anyone during the initial
days of the operation to handle the pack of newsmen who had descended on Lebanon. The consequences were not long in coming. Soon
after the landing, the Washington Post published photos depicting U.S.
forces in Lebanon—one of a battle-hardened marine charging across a
beach with a fixed bayonet, the other of a soldier sitting on a donkey
drinking a soda. Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor was
so upset that he immediately flew a special public affairs team from
Washington to Beirut to perform the important task of managing press
relations—and shaping public perceptions—for the remainder of this
sensitive politico-military operation.11
The Emergence of Doctrine for “Situations Short of War”
The Lebanon experience demonstrated that the Defense Department
needed to be better prepared for limited overseas contingency operations. While most of the military’s remedial efforts focused on relatively
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
General Taylor believed this photo of a U.S. soldier riding a burro
created adverse publicity for the Army.
conventional issues of joint planning, command and control, logistics,
and interoperability, the Army did in fact examine issues peculiar to
operations of a constabulary nature. Although the 1954 edition of FM
100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, had first broached the
subjects of limited warfare and the subordination of military action to
political and diplomatic purposes, the Army took several years to flesh
out some basic concepts regarding peacetime contingencies. These
ideas were just entering Army doctrinal literature at the time of the
Lebanese crisis under the designation “situations short of war.”
As the Army defined them, situations short of war were “military
operations which lie in the area between normal peaceful relations and
open hostilities between nations.” According to Army manuals, the
United States undertook such operations to bolster a faltering government, to stabilize a restless area, to deter aggression, and to maintain
order. Missions that the Army believed it might have to perform during
a situation short of war included making a show of force, enforcing a
truce, serving as an international police force, and undertaking a legally
sanctioned occupation—in short, missions largely of a diplomatic and
constabulary nature.12
For the most part, Army texts during the 1950s confined their
discussion of situations short of war to broad principles. In part, this
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
reflected a recognition by doctrine writers that such operations were too
varied to be easily codified into rules and regulations. Moreover, the
Army believed that many of the particulars of constabulary service—
like riot control, civil affairs, military policing, and small-unit patrolling—were already adequately covered in existing doctrine. The proper
execution of these and other functions during an overseas contingency
was less a matter of developing new doctrine than of intelligently
adapting existing procedures to the exigencies of the moment.
Because peacetime contingency operations were “inherently delicate,” Army manuals emphasized that all personnel regardless of rank
had to be thoroughly familiar with American policy and the implications
of that policy when performing their duties. Recognizing that “sound
troop discipline” was indispensable for a successful outcome, Army
doctrine recommended that troops assigned to contingency duty be
instructed on local laws and customs, personal conduct, and the proper
treatment of women. Smart dress and the maintenance of a courteous,
yet martial, bearing were integral to winning the respect of the local
population. Army texts during the mid-1950s also counseled commanders to prepare their men for some of the frustrations typically associated
with politico-military operations, including long tours, enervating sentry
duty, and shadowy foes who might employ terrorism and other irregular
methods against U.S. forces. Strong discipline, troop indoctrination, and
inspired leadership would help counteract corrosive influences on troop
morale and behavior. Restraint was also a watchword, for in the words
of one manual, “the excessive use of force can never be justified; it can
only lead to the need to apply ever-increasing force to maintain the same
degree of order, and to the loss of the sympathy and support of the local
populace. If efforts to win over the local populace are not to be defeated,
the enemy dead and wounded must be treated with respect and humanity,
no matter how despicable the acts.”13
Unlike the pre-1939 Army, which had generally resented civilian
interference in military operations and had sought to insulate commanders from external meddling, the post–World War II Army accepted the premise that “in most cases, political considerations are overriding.” It acceded to the State Department’s primacy on policy issues in
short-of-war operations. It further enjoined expeditionary commanders
to establish sound, collaborative relationships with the many entities
that would inevitably be involved in a contingency operation, starting
with the various service components and extending to the local representatives of the State Department and other U.S. civilian agencies, the
armed forces of allied contingents (if present), and the civil and military officials of the country in which the operation was being under192
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
taken. Still, a jealous regard for professional autonomy led the Army to
endorse the use of mission-type orders that would give an expedition
commander “considerable latitude in determining how to accomplish
his assigned mission.” It likewise argued that “the commander on the
spot alone is in a position to establish the degree of force that must be
used.” Command relationships between Washington and the field and
between civil and military authorities thus defied easy categorization
and remained a delicate doctrinal issue.14
The Army believed that the division would be the basic element
employed in contingency operations, as smaller formations would lack
both the manpower and the administrative apparatus needed to operate
effectively as an autonomous force. Recognizing the inherently political nature of the contingency environment, doctrine writers recommended that the State Department assign an adviser to the expedition if
a U.S. embassy was not functioning in the area of operations. A division
operating in a situation short of war was also to receive additional civil
affairs personnel so that it could adequately prepare civil and economic
plans in conjunction with other U.S. agencies. Division engineers and
service personnel would support these plans by providing humanitarian
and construction assistance to benighted areas. Official doctrine also
recognized the need to augment the division’s intelligence capability.
Unlike conventional warfare, in which military intelligence tended to
focus on the terrain and the enemy’s war-making assets, situations short
of war required a much broader effort, to include political, historical,
and social factors; personalities; and the causes of unrest. All sources,
including U.S. civilian agencies and indigenous institutions, were to
be tapped in the pursuit of information, perhaps to include the establishment by the Army of its own police and clandestine intelligence
networks. Safeguarding information, personnel, and supplies from
the machinations of hostile agents, guerrillas, and black marketeers
likewise required extra vigilance in the shadowy world of constabulary operations, where front lines and clearly defined enemies would
be rare. These circumstances, together with the inherent sensitivity of
politico-military operations, also raised the specter of adverse media
relations, as the photo incident in Lebanon demonstrated. To address
this problem, doctrine writers recommended that “within sensible
security limitations, a cordial and straightforward treatment of correspondents will go far toward public understanding of the issues and it
will facilitate accomplishment of the mission.”15
Because doctrine for situations short of war was just being drafted
around the time of the Lebanon intervention, few officers were familiar with it.16 Nevertheless, the Lebanon experience confirmed many of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the new doctrine’s tenets, and consequently the Army expended little
effort in revising its manuals after the Lebanon intervention. Change 1
to FM 17–100, The Armored Division and Combat Command, which
appeared in June 1959, greatly increased that manual’s coverage of
situations short of war but introduced little that was new. Perhaps
based on the Lebanese experience, the manual warned that political
considerations might restrict a commander’s freedom of action, even
to the degree of seriously impairing the effectiveness of the operation.
Such obstacles could be alleviated only by time-consuming negotiation.
The manual likewise noted that “the general requirement for application of minimum necessary force to avoid unwarranted alienation of
local populations can seriously reduce the availability of normal fire
support to the maneuver elements. The division commander will often
find it necessary to limit or even prohibit the use of field artillery, primary tank guns, mortars, and rocket launchers except under specific
emergency conditions.” Finally, the manual emphasized the positive
role civil affairs officers could play in minimizing these adverse conditions by forming civilian-military liaison agencies as had been done
in Lebanon. Yet beyond this the manual did not go, stating that the
“unusual conditions posed by a situation short of war” precluded any
attempt to prescribe more definitive procedures.17
Other manuals published after the Lebanese incursion likewise
failed to break new ground. This fact drew criticism from a small
number of officers who believed that the Army was not doing enough
to prepare for overseas constabulary duty. Chief among the critics was
General Gray, who in 1960 wrote an article outlining operational concepts for what he described as situations “short of Small War.” Although
he admitted that the Army already had relevant doctrinal and training
materials and that some units were indeed training for such missions,
Gray believed that the Army needed to devote greater attention to
constabulary subjects. The best way to do this, he felt, was to amplify
the existing materials and publish them in a single manual devoted
exclusively to situations short of war. Conceptually, the principles that
Gray espoused differed little from published doctrine, though his article
did contain useful descriptions of some of the special tactics and techniques he had recently used in Lebanon. These included roadblocks,
area sweeps, town searches, urban combat, population screening, and
show-of-force operations.18
The Army did not answer Gray’s call for a manual on situations
short of war, although it continued to expand its coverage of the subject
in Army texts. This movement received a significant boost in 1962,
when the Army began publishing a new family of manuals in response
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
to President Kennedy’s drive to create flexible military forces capable
of responding to any contingency. Toward this end, the 1962 edition of
FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, formally adopted
Robert Osgood’s conceptual paradigm of a “spectrum of war,” a sliding
scale on the employment of military force to achieve national ends. Allout nuclear warfare lay at the most extreme end of the spectrum, from
which point the degree of violence gradually declined along a continuum through general war, limited war, and finally to the least violent
category of conflict, cold war. The manual defined cold war as the
sum total of political, military, economic, and psychological measures,
short of waging general or limited war, which could be used in a power
struggle between contending nations or coalitions. Situations short of
war represented a subset of the cold war, “in which military force is
moved to an area directly and is employed to attain national objectives
in operations not involving formal open hostilities between nations,”
but which might include combat, most probably against irregular forces
like rioters, subversives, and guerrillas.19
FM 100–5 (1962) also expounded on the notion, first introduced in
the 1954 edition, that military force must be tailored to fit the political
objectives for which it was being employed, asserting that an operation
was “futile unless it is directed toward the attainment of the objective
set for it.” Broad political objectives circumscribed strategy and tactics
alike, although the Army maintained that operations always needed to
be conducted with sufficient strength and vigor to obtain the desired
result. This caveat, which the manual argued did not contradict the primacy of national objectives, nonetheless highlighted the dynamic tension over ends and means that inevitably accompanies the use of force,
especially in limited wars and contingencies. The manual further noted
that commanders had to demonstrate ingenuity in wrestling with the
complex web of political, military, and geographical factors that gave
each operation a unique cast.20
Having established a general context for military operations in the
mid-twentieth century, FM 100–5 (1962) included two new chapters
related to cold war operations: “Military Operations Against Irregular
Forces,” which will be discussed in Chapter 6, and “Situations Short of
War.” While the inclusion of an eight-page chapter on situations short
of war in the Army’s prime combat manual elevated the visibility of the
subject throughout the Army, the content of that chapter differed little
from the doctrine propounded in earlier manuals. Both the precepts
and the wording remained virtually unchanged. The manual envisioned
that commanders would be subordinated to the State Department in
all matters pertaining to political and civil affairs and that they would
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
have to be prepared to coordinate their actions with a host of American
and indigenous bureaucratic institutions. It reaffirmed the advisability
of tailoring forces and procedures to the situation and of issuing “mission-type orders” in which the commander would “be given necessary
latitude in determining how to accomplish his assigned mission.” The
manual highlighted the important roles that civil affairs, psychological
warfare, and intelligence personnel played in such operations. It also
endorsed the application of minimum force and emphasized the necessity of winning the support of the local population. Finally, FM 100–5
(1962) reiterated earlier calls that, to the extent possible, contingency
troops receive special tactical, environmental, linguistic, and cultural
training for the specific mission in which they were to be employed.21
Lower-level manuals published in 1962 also expanded their coverage of situations short of war. Most significantly, both FM 41–10,
Civil Affairs Operations, and FM 33–5, Psychological Operations,
added new sections on the application of their particular arts in cold
war environments. Reflecting the Lebanon experience, the civil affairs
manual noted the importance of negotiating a favorable status of forces
agreement at the earliest opportunity and endorsed using civil affairs
personnel in a wide variety of liaison, training, and civic action roles.
According to FM 33–5, the main function of psychological operations
(psyops) during situations short of war was to convince the indigenous
population that America’s actions were legal, that its intentions were
benevolent, and that its presence would be temporary. Psychological
operations personnel were expected to win popular support for intervention forces, to counter hostile propaganda, and to undermine the
popularity of enemy irregulars. The manual also discussed the relationship between military and civilian information organizations, stating
that Army psyops units would have to be prepared to operate in close
coordination with and under the supervision of embassy personnel.
Neither manual, however, described many tactics or techniques specifically designed for contingency operations. This was in keeping with the
premise that conventional methods, intelligently modified to the conditions at hand, would prove adequate.22
If the thrust of Army doctrine changed little between 1955 and
1965, the Army continued to take actions to improve its cold war capabilities. A number of schools introduced cold war operations into their
curriculums, including the Command and General Staff College, whose
mission to teach mid-level staff procedures and to develop combined
operations doctrine at the division and corps level made it the natural
locus for contingency operations education in the Army. In 1957 the
CGSC introduced three new courses into its curriculum: “Infantry
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
Division in a Situation Short of War,” “Airborne Division in Situations
Short of War,” and “Airborne Corps in Independent Police Action.” By
the late 1950s instruction in situations short of war constituted about 7
percent of the Fort Leavenworth curriculum. By 1962 cold war operations, including situations short of war and counterinsurgency, had
grown to encompass about 13 percent of the school’s instruction. Still,
while Leavenworth related a great deal of information relevant for planning, organizing, transporting, and supporting overseas expeditions,
it did not delve too deeply into the conduct of military interventions
beyond the general principles contained in the manuals.
The school’s cold war and limited war operations courses did serve,
however, as a vehicle for reinvigorating counterguerrilla studies at the
college. This trend reflected the fact that Army planners believed that
irregular warfare was the most likely threat U.S. soldiers would face in
conducting short-of-war operations. Consequently, beginning in 1958
and for nearly every year thereafter during the period covered by this
volume, the Command and General Staff College included either a cold
war or limited war counterguerrilla exercise in its curriculum. In 1958,
for example, CGSC students reviewed a variety of sources (including
historical treatises on World War II partisan movements and the 1944
German manual Fighting the Guerrilla Bands) to craft plans for a hypothetical American intervention in Iran to combat a Soviet-inspired tribal
uprising. The scenario called for the “maximum use of psychological
warfare to separate the guerrillas and the civilians ideologically,” and
an active civil affairs program in which U.S. troops would “go out of
their way” to “gain the support of the civilians by doing so-called good
works where possible by such means as lending medical assistance to
civilians,” distributing food, and undertaking other “beneficial projects
to consolidate popular support.” According to the school, these and
other nation-building activities were “an important adjunct to military
operations.” In the meantime, the United States would arm village
self-defense groups to insulate the population from guerrilla intimidation while sealing the border to prevent external aid from reaching the
insurgents. Having denied the rebels both external and internal support,
the plan mimicked established doctrine in seeking to destroy them
through a combination of aggressive, highly mobile small-unit actions
and encirclements in which artillery and tanks took a backseat to light
infantry tactics and heliborne operations.23
Scenarios employed in subsequent years quoted heavily from the
now defunct FM 31–20 (1951) in considering counterguerrilla campaigns under a variety of circumstances, from situations where the
United States restricted its role to providing military advice, to more
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
direct interventions, to operations conducted in the course of a limited
war in some third world country. All of these exercises stressed the
synergistic effect of political, economic, and psychological action,
population and resources security, clandestine intelligence, and vigorous, small-unit operations to isolate a guerrilla force from its sources
of support and ultimately destroy it. Such were the tactics the United
States would employ if its intervention forces were confronted by an
irregular opponent.24
While students at the Command and General Staff College practiced planning interventions designed to suppress local insurgencies,
the Army moved ahead during the late 1950s and early 1960s to create
the tools necessary to execute such contingencies. In 1958 the Army
formed the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC), whose four divisions—the
82d and 101st Airborne Divisions and 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions—
were to act as a ready reserve, either to reinforce forward-deployed
units in a general war or to provide the initial forces for a limited war
or lesser contingency. In 1961 the Pentagon merged the STRAC into
a new joint entity, Strike Command (STRICOM), under the command
of General Adams, the former joint land force commander during the
Lebanon intervention. The Strike Command drafted contingency plans,
developed doctrine for executing contingency missions, and imposed
training programs to ensure that the Army and Air Force units under its
command were capable of implementing those plans and doctrines.25
If the creation of STRAC and STRICOM, together with upgrades
to the Air Force’s transportation fleet, improved the Army’s ability to
conduct contingency operations in general, the Army also began to
look at creating contingency forces specifically for situations short of
war. Army Chief of Staff General George H. Decker’s suggestion in
December 1960 that the United States create two regionally oriented
Cold War task forces, each composed of an airborne brigade and a
Special Forces group, would have created organizations specifically
designed for taking direct action in the lower end of the spectrum
of war. The following year, however, Decker eliminated the airborne
brigades from the proposed task forces, recasting them from direct
action forces into organizations intended primarily to advise and assist
foreign countries “in low intensity cold war situations.” The revised
concept eventually came to fruition in 1962 in the form of Special
Action Forces (SAFs). Each SAF consisted of a Special Forces group
augmented by engineer, civil affairs, psychological warfare, military
police, medical, and intelligence detachments. Although theoretically
capable of deploying in toto during a contingency, the SAF’s primary
mission was to provide mobile teams of area-oriented, linguistically
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
trained experts who would supplement more conventionally oriented
military assistance advisory groups in helping foreign armies perform
unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, civic action, and nationbuilding activities.26
Ultimately, the Army formed six SAFs, one each for Europe, Latin
America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, plus a reserve. Supporting
the Latin American, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern SAFs were
four “backup” brigades drawn from each of the four divisions in the
STRAC. In addition to providing added personnel from whom the SAFs
could draw training assistance teams, the brigades were to be the initial
spearheads for direct American action in any situation short of war that
the supported SAF and the indigenous military could not handle. The
backup brigades were capable of operating independently for up to five
weeks but required significant augmentation and reinforcement for longer or larger operations. Their personnel received some language and
cultural orientation relevant to their assigned regions, plus at least six
weeks of counterinsurgency training every year. The SAF-backup brigade arrangement reflected a recognition on the part of the Army of the
benefits of having a body of linguistically capable, culturally sensitive,
and specially trained troops available for delicate cold war operations.
The backup brigade concept remained in force throughout the period
considered by this study.27
Over the next few years the SAFs would send hundreds of training
teams to dozens of countries to help redress socioeconomic ills and
suppress internal unrest. In the meantime, conventional Army forces
put their cold war training and doctrine to the test on two occasions—in
Thailand in 1962 and the Dominican Republic in 1965.
Doctrine at Work: Thailand and the Dominican Republic
The 1962 deployment to Thailand had its origins in the Indochina
War and subsequent turmoil in Thailand’s northern neighbor, Laos.
The 1954 Geneva agreement that terminated the Indochina War had
created a nonaligned kingdom in Laos. The newly independent state
was deeply divided between Communist, anti-Communist, and neutralist factions—a situation that eventually led to civil war in 1959. The
United States, which had been secretly providing the Royal Laotian
Army with materiel since 1957, backed the anti-Communists by
covertly detailing Special Forces personnel to train the Laotian Army.
This operation continued on a clandestine basis until the United States
formally created a military assistance group and White Star Mobile
Training Teams in Laos in 1961. The Communists countered these
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
moves by sending Soviet advisers and North Vietnamese soldiers to
support the Laotian Communists, the Pathet Lao. Weakened by political infighting, corruption, logistical shortfalls, and inexperience, the
Royal Laotian Army performed poorly. Even America’s newest cold
war weapon, civic action, which U.S. Army Special Forces and civil
affairs personnel introduced to Laos in 1957 based on Philippine precedents, failed to stem Communist momentum. Consequently, in 1961
the Laotian government agreed to a shaky truce with the Pathet Lao and
its allies in the neutralist camp. The truce, however, proved short-lived,
for in May 1962 the Pathet Lao renewed the war by seizing the strategic
town of Nam Tha in northwestern Laos.28
President Kennedy feared that the Communists might conquer
Laos and use that country as a springboard to subvert the pro-Western
government in neighboring Thailand. He was also reluctant to commit
U.S. forces to a remote and ineffectively governed country. Having
come to the conclusion that the restoration of a truly neutral, nonaligned Laos was the best he could hope for, the president decided to
use military power to achieve that result. Rather than sending intervention troops directly into Laos, Kennedy opted to deploy U.S. forces to
neighboring Thailand in what amounted to a show-of-force operation.
The deployment would signal the Communists that the United States
would not permit Laos to fall under communism. It would also boost
the morale of anti-Communist forces in Laos and reassure Thailand,
a Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) ally, that the United
States would not abandon it to the approaching Communist tide. Yet by
stopping short of direct intervention, Kennedy would also put pressure
on the pro-Western forces in Laos to seek an accommodation with the
neutralist faction.29
To these ends and with the consent of the Thai government,
Kennedy ordered U.S. troops to Thailand in May 1962. Col. William A.
McKean’s 1st Battle Group, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, was
already in Thailand on a SEATO exercise and formed the nucleus of the
force. It was soon joined by additional 25th Division troops, a Marine
brigade, an air squadron, and token allied contingents from Great
Britain, Australia, and New Zealand—approximately 5,000 men in all,
of whom 2,300 were U.S. Army personnel. Washington appointed the
25th Infantry Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. James L. Richardson,
to lead the expedition, which was designated Joint Task Force 116.
The deployment proved uneventful. Whether influenced by the
demonstration of force or not, the warring factions inside Laos quickly
reached an accord in which they agreed to set aside their weapons
and create a coalition government committed to a nonaligned foreign
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
U.S. soldiers undergo live-fire counterguerrilla training in Thailand.
policy. The international community lent its support to the settlement
by agreeing at Geneva that all foreign military personnel should depart
from Laos, thereby transforming Laos—at least on paper—from battleground to neutral ground in the ongoing Cold War. By July the crisis
was over.
With no enemy to fight, the Americans spent most of their time
building camps and airfields, conducting training, and participating in
exercises with the Thai armed forces. They also reconnoitered much of
northern Thailand in case they had to undertake more active operations
on the Laotian border. Meanwhile, General Richardson kept a keen
eye on the public relations aspects of the deployment. Soldiers of the
25th Division repaired roads and bridges, cleared fields for farmers,
treated the sick, hosted sporting events, and formed an amateur band
that performed daily concerts. These and other civic actions kept Joint
Task Force 116 in good standing with the general population during its
sojourn in Thailand.30
Washington recalled the marines in August, and the following
month Richardson replaced the original Army contingent with Col.
John A. Olson’s 1st Battle Group, 35th Infantry. Olson’s men remained
in Thailand until December, when the Pentagon withdrew the task force
altogether. The withdrawal did not, however, terminate America’s military presence in Thailand, as the United States replaced the infantrymen
with engineers who over the next decade revamped Thailand’s logistical and transportation systems to facilitate U.S. military operations
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Soldiers from the 27th Infantry patrol the Thai-Laotian border.
in support of the growing conflict in Vietnam. Nor had the operation
succeeded in resolving the Laotian conflict, for in 1963 the precarious agreement fell apart and the civil war resumed in earnest, fueled
by the presence of thousands of North Vietnamese combat troops who
remained in Laos in violation of the 1962 accords. Not wishing to violate the Geneva agreement openly, the United States confined itself to
providing covert aid to the Laotian Army in the guise of training, materiel, and Special Forces personnel, who, under the control of the CIA,
organized guerrilla resistance to the Communists. Ultimately, none of
these measures were sufficient, and after a long and bitter struggle the
Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies finally swept into power
in 1975. Joint Task Force 116 thus proved a momentarily successful use
of force in support of what otherwise turned out to be a failed effort to
keep communism at bay in Laos.31
President Kennedy’s modest deployment to Thailand had proceeded peacefully. Such was not the case when his successor, Lyndon
B. Johnson, returned to coercive diplomacy several years later, this time
in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic was an impoverished nation burdened by a political culture in which individuals
battled as much for personal gain as they did for ideological reasons.
In 1961 it entered a particularly unstable period when an assassin killed
the country’s long-time right-wing dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo
Molina. The following year, the United States compelled Trujillo’s ally
and successor, Joaquin Balaguer, to resign, a move that paved the way
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
for free elections and the elevation to the presidency in 1963 of Juan
Bosch, leader of the left-leaning reform party, Partido Revolucionario
Dominicano (PRD). Bosch’s tenure proved short-lived, as military conservatives rebelled and installed Donald Reid Cabral in his place.
Reid might have been able to survive his unpopularity with the
people had his efforts at reducing corruption and military spending not alienated his erstwhile patrons in the armed forces, some of
whom formed a loose cabal with other anti-Reid elements and staged
a coup on 24 April 1965. The coup received strong support from the
people of Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital. Urged into action by
the PRD and other leftist organizations, including the island’s three
Communist parties, the city’s residents took to the streets in support of Reid’s ouster, thrusting the city into chaos. After capturing
Reid, the Constitutionalists, as the rebels called themselves, installed
a provisional government under PRD politician Jose Rafael Molina
Urena. The situation quickly unraveled as the victors began to squabble
among themselves over the ultimate disposition of the government.
Although many hoped that Bosch would return from exile and resume
the presidency, others championed Balaguer or favored establishing
a military junta. The anti-Bosch elements began to defect from the
Constitutionalists’ cause when units of the armed forces hostile to
Bosch, dubbed Loyalists, staged a counterattack that caused Molina
Urena to flee the country. Constitutionalist forces under the command
of Col. Francisco Caamano, however, managed to stall the Loyalist
offensive, and the country gradually slipped toward civil war. Unable
to retake Santo Domingo on their own, the Loyalists changed tactics,
pledging to hold elections if the United States would intervene on their
behalf. After evacuating many foreigners from Santo Domingo on 27
April and deploying 500 marines on the twenty-eighth to provide additional security, President Johnson decided to intervene directly in the
Dominican Civil War.32
Johnson’s motives for launching the intervention were complex.
Although American authorities were unenthusiastic about Bosch,
the United States did not oppose his return. Moreover, Johnson truly
wished to promote democracy in the Dominican Republic and had
no desire to return the country to the dictatorships and juntas of the
past. But reports from Santo Domingo seemed to indicate that the
Communists were behind much of the unrest inside the city and that
they were using the rebellion to mask their own plans to seize control
of the country. In reality, U.S. intelligence greatly overestimated the
influence of the Communists within the Constitutionalist camp. But the
prospect of allowing the revolution to take its course, only to find out
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Residents of Santo Domingo express confusion over
the arrival of U.S. troops.
at the end of the day that it was indeed controlled by the Communists,
frightened Johnson. Just a few years before President Eisenhower had
stood by as Fidel Castro had overthrown Cuba’s dictator Fulgencio
Batista, only to learn too late of Castro’s Communist loyalties. Johnson
was determined that there should be no more Castros in Latin America,
and, rather than take a chance, he chose to intervene against just such
an eventuality.33
The first reinforcements for the 500 marines already ashore came
in the form of 1,500 additional marines on 29 April. They met no resistance as they took up positions in the western part of the city around the
U.S. embassy and the Embajador Hotel, where foreign nationals had
gathered for evacuation. Early the following morning airplanes carrying
lead elements of the 82d Airborne Division, the STRAC unit earmarked
for Latin American contingencies, touched down at San Isidro airport
about eighteen kilometers east of the capital. Officially, the deployment
was billed as a neutral interposition to protect American lives and property. Privately, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army General Earle G. Wheeler
informed Army Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., the ultimate commander of
U.S. Forces, Dominican Republic, that his “unstated mission” was to
prevent a Communist takeover.
U.S. military authorities immediately effected a close collaboration
with the Loyalists. Not only had the Loyalists allowed the paratroopers
to land at San Isidro, but they turned over to the 82d Airborne Division
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
the vital Duarte Bridge, the only access point to the capital from San
Isidro. The Americans in turn gave the Loyalists supplies and advice,
hoping that the Dominican military would be able to quash the rebellion on its own. Palmer even developed a plan in which Loyalist forces
would drive into Santo Domingo to capture several key installations
and link the two American positions. If successful, the move would
have trapped the bulk of the Constitutionalists in the southeastern
corner of the city along the banks of the Ozama River, thereby preventing them from escaping into the countryside. Loyalist military forces
proved unequal to the task, and U.S. diplomats, without consulting
Palmer, agreed to a cease-fire that left the two American lodgments
isolated from each other.34
Palmer believed the resulting situation was both militarily untenable and injurious to America’s ultimate goal of suppressing the uprising. After some negotiation he managed to persuade the diplomats to
allow him to link his two positions. On the night of 3 May, the marines
expanded their security zone in western Santo Domingo while three
battalions of paratroopers leapfrogged over each other to cut a corridor
through the city along a route chosen to avoid key Constitutionalist
installations and minimize the danger of conflict. The night operation
took the Constitutionalists by surprise, and in just a little over an hour
the soldiers secured the desired link up with minimal casualties. Over
the next few days the Americans gradually expanded the corridor,
variously dubbed Battle Alley and the All American Expressway, into a
relatively secure line of communications that trapped 80 percent of the
Constitutionalists in the southeastern corner of the capital. Although
Palmer permitted people to travel freely between the two halves of the
city, his roadblocks gave the Americans a stranglehold over the movement of arms into the rebel bastion, notwithstanding the ingenious
efforts of Dominican smugglers.35 (Map 9)
With the rebels isolated, Palmer sought authority to close in for the
kill, but to no avail. President Johnson wished to avoid both the spectacle
of U.S. soldiers crushing a popularly supported revolution as well as the
prospect of increased U.S. casualties. Moreover, the intervention had
already sparked a tremendous outcry among Latin American nations
that deeply resented anything that smacked of old-fashioned Yankee
gunboat diplomacy. Having already agreed to a call by the Organization
of American States (OAS) for a cease-fire, Johnson was reluctant to do
anything further to inflame hemispheric sensibilities. Consequently, like
President Woodrow Wilson a half-century before, Johnson refrained from
authorizing blunt force and endeavored instead to wield military power
in a somewhat more delicate, if not entirely subtle, way to pressure the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Area Occupied by U.S. Forces
O z am
Isabela R
San Isidro Air Field
U.S. Embassy
All American Expressway
Monte Cristi
Map 9
Dominicans into accepting his ultimate will. He ordered the 24,000 U.S.
soldiers and marines in Santo Domingo to interpose themselves between
the two warring parties while American diplomats capitalized on the
leverage provided by the military’s presence to persuade the Dominicans
to accept a negotiated settlement. His decision to refrain from applying additional force, while admirable, placed a heavy burden on those
charged with implementing this policy.36
Although Army doctrine accepted the preeminence of civilian
policy makers and diplomatic concerns during situations short of war,
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
An American checkpoint controls the movement of people
through Santo Domingo.
General Palmer resented some of the restraints placed on his freedom
of action. Likewise, while doctrine fully endorsed the principle of
minimum force, U.S. troops in Santo Domingo soon began to chafe at
the many restrictions placed upon them by senior officials. According
to the rules of engagement, U.S. tankers could return fire with their
.45-caliber pistols if fired upon but needed clearance from their company commander to fire their carbines. To fire the coaxial .30-caliber
machine gun mounted on their tanks, the tankers had to get the permission of General Palmer. To fire their tank’s larger .50-caliber machine
gun, U.S. tankers had to get the approval of the theater commander.
A tank crew could not fire its 90-mm. main gun without first receiving authorization from the Pentagon in Washington. Eventually, so
many restrictions were added, deleted, qualified, or changed that the
troops became confused as to what the rules actually were at any given
moment. One restriction, which prevented soldiers from firing unless
their position was in imminent danger of being overrun, proved both
demoralizing and hazardous, as Constitutionalist snipers learned that
they could fire with impunity knowing that the Americans would not
fire back.37
These problems notwithstanding, the soldiers endeavored to
execute faithfully their difficult and sometimes murky assignment.
Palmer collocated his headquarters with the embassy to effect closer
politico-military coordination, frequently voicing his opinion on policy
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
questions. His sensitivity to the
delicate aspects of his mission and
his insistence that his men exhibit
decorum contributed greatly to
the ultimate success of the intervention.38
Over the next few months
U.S. troops labored to maintain
the fragile and oft-violated truce
while enduring frequent harassment from Constitutionalist snipers. Yet the soldiers were not
truly neutral peacekeepers, for
they were always ready to apply
coercive measures in the interest of furthering U.S. national
objectives. Army Special Forces
A U.S. soldier watches a
teams, for example, assaulted
manhole to prevent the
Constitutionalist-controlled radio
Constitutionalists from moving
transmitters throughout the counmen and supplies through the
try to prevent them from dissewer system.
seminating revolutionary and antiAmerican propaganda. Then, when the Constitutionalists refused to
exile several Castroite leaders, Palmer helped plan a Loyalist attack
that seized the country’s central broadcast facilities, thereby knocking
the rebels off the airwaves for good. The following month, Maj. Gen.
Robert H. York, commander of the 82d Airborne Division, retaliated
against the heavy Constitutionalist fire by attacking the main rebel
quarter of the city. In a few hours York’s men had seized approximately
thirty square blocks of Constitutionalist territory and were poised to
overrun the entire enclave before Palmer, on orders from Washington,
reluctantly reined in his subordinate. A military solution, no matter how
quick and easy to achieve, was not what President Johnson desired, yet
there was no doubt in whose direction U.S. guns were pointed.39
The July fight proved a sobering one for the Constitutionalists,
who realized that their military weakness undermined their overall
negotiating position. In August they agreed to a settlement brokered
by the Organization of American States. The agreement created a new
provisional government under a moderate, Hector Garcia-Godoy, who
pledged to hold new elections in nine months.
Although the marines had withdrawn in June, a portion of the
82d Airborne Division remained in the Dominican Republic to help
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
implement the pact as part of an Inter-American Peacekeeping Force
(IAPF). The Organization of American States had created the peacekeeping force in May at the request of the United States, which sought
refuge from international condemnation by cloaking its heretofore
unilateral intervention in the mantle of a multinational initiative.
Ultimately, six countries—Brazil, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua,
Costa Rica, and El Salvador—participated by sending 1,600 soldiers
and policemen. As part of its price for creating the peacekeeping
force, the Organization of American States demanded that a Latin
American be given command of the force, including the U.S. contingent. Palmer argued vigorously against placing U.S. troops under
foreign command on the grounds that such an arrangement would
undermine America’s ability to use its armed forces in pursuit of
national interests, but Washington acceded to the OAS’ demand.
In practice, the experiment in international peacekeeping worked
well. The commander of the Inter-American Peacekeeping Force,
Brazilian Lt. Gen. Hugo Panasco Alvim, established a good relationship with Palmer, who by arrangement was made Alvim’s deputy and
retained exclusive control over the approximately 6,200 U.S. paratroopers who made up the American contingent. The United States provided
nearly all of the IAPF’s logistical and combat capabilities and posted
Spanish-speaking officers to the staff, which was run according to
American procedures. The fact that most of the Latin officers assigned
to the peacekeeping force had attended U.S. military schools further
smoothed operations. Nevertheless, Palmer never wavered in his opinion that placing U.S. combat troops under the field command of a foreign officer had been a “serious error” that should never be repeated.40
Over the course of the next year, the American contingent of the
peacekeeping force protected the provisional government from subversion from both the right and the left. It demilitarized the Constitutionalist
quarter of the city when rebel elements refused to disarm, while also
blocking several attempted coups by military units. Meanwhile, the
Americans conducted an aggressive psychological and civic action
campaign. Most airborne officers in the Dominican Republic had been
exposed to the concept of civic action in Army schools and readily
initiated such programs from the beginning of the intervention. While
Army bands serenaded the residents of Santo Domingo, Army engineers restored municipal services, repaired roads, and built schools;
Army doctors provided free medical care to 58,000 people; and Army
paratroopers organized youth baseball teams, hosted Christmas parties,
and assisted civilian aid agencies in distributing 30 million pounds of
food and 15,000 pounds of clothing. Army psyops specialists supported
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A soldier distributes milk to civilians.
these activities through millions of printed propaganda items and thousands of hours of loudspeaker and radio broadcasts.
Sometimes American generosity backfired, as civilians reacted with
indignation when their demands for money and helicopter rides were not
met. Other complications arose when the Army chose not to reopen Santo
Domingo’s schools due to faculty shortages and intelligence reports that
the city’s schools were havens for Communist agitators. Nevertheless,
while there is no objective evidence as to the effectiveness of military
civil and psychological operations in the Dominican Republic, the
Army’s endeavors in these areas doubtlessly helped reduce civilian suffering and sped restoration of normality in the capital.41
In June 1966 Balaguer defeated Bosch in the presidential elections.
With a new democratically elected government in place, the last Army
paratroopers departed the Dominican Republic on 21 September 1966.
Twenty-seven Americans had lost their lives and another 172 had been
wounded during the seventeen-month intervention.
Like the Army’s previous forays into situations short of war in
Lebanon and Thailand, the Dominican intervention must be considered
a success. A Communist takeover, if it had ever been in the cards, was
forestalled and a more democratic and stable regime had been installed.
On the negative side, the intervention had cost the United States the
trust of its Latin neighbors, while the new Dominican government,
though less oppressive than those heretofore, retained certain unsavory
characteristics. The Dominican military, while somewhat chastened,
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
showed little interest in absorbing American proposals for reform and
civic action, ideals which even the United States prioritized behind the
maintenance of order and stability. Moreover, little progress had been
made in redressing the deep-seated social and economic problems that
underlay the island’s political instability. But no one could reasonably
expect a relatively short military intervention to achieve such lofty, yet
difficult, goals. In the end, U.S. military forces did a commendable job
in navigating the treacherous course laid down for them by civilian
policy makers.42
From an operational standpoint, many of the deficiencies that had
occurred in Lebanon reappeared during the Dominican expedition, notwithstanding the six years the Pentagon had had to correct them. As in
Lebanon, military forces deployed to the Dominican Republic without
reliable or timely intelligence on the political and military situation
in the country. Although the 82d Airborne Division was the Army’s
contingency force for Latin America, it had not had time prior to the
operation to adjust its plans to recent changes in Army organization
and joint-level plans. Nor had the backup brigade concept measured up
to expectations. Not only had a single brigade proved far too meager a
force to send to even a small country like the Dominican Republic, but
when the initial call came, General York had sent his 3d Brigade to the
Caribbean rather than the designated Latin American backup force, the
1st Brigade. He had done so because elements of the 3d Brigade were
currently pulling alert duty while the language-qualified and counterinsurgency-trained men of the 1st Brigade had rotated into a stand-down
mode and were not immediately available for action. The 1st Brigade
eventually arrived in the Dominican Republic with the rest of the division but not in its envisioned role as the highly specialized, culturally
sensitive advance element for situations short of war. Even then, scheduling problems and personnel rotations left the 82d Airborne Division
far short of the number of language-qualified men it could have used
on the streets of Santo Domingo.43
While the Dominican experience pointed up some shortcomings in
Army planning, the operation also illustrated other problems. Though
designated for contingency duty, a mission that Army doctrine recognized required careful tailoring of forces, the 82d Airborne Division
had failed to develop austere tables of organization for less than a full
combat load. Once in command, General Palmer tried to limit logistical shipments to only those supplies he actually needed. This proved
difficult, for as in Lebanon, the Army’s logisticians were incredibly
efficient at moving vast quantities of unneeded materiel to the scene
of operations.44
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Parallels to the Lebanon experience also existed in the realm of
command and control. Given the complexity and sensitivity of the
mission, command arrangements needed to be as clear as possible, yet
during the early days of the operation three major changes in command
structure occurred, and violations of the chain of command were frequent. Moreover, the communication gear the 82d Airborne Division
initially brought to the island lacked the range to effect direct communication with the United States, a severe handicap in a delicate operation in which Washington strove to control every move.45
Just as disturbing as these flaws in command, control, and logistics
was the low priority Army planners had again given to the deployment
of noncombat personnel, such as civil affairs, psychological warfare,
medical, and police specialists. The Army unwisely denied requests by
brigade commanders for experienced civil affairs officers to be posted
to their staffs, thereby forcing the commanders to create civil affairs
positions from their own assets. It likewise failed to program any
medical units to minister to the population and limited the number of
psychological warfare and police personnel to be deployed. Experience
soon showed these arrangements inadequate. Unlike Lebanon, where
the United States Information Service had handled virtually the
entire propaganda and public information burden using its in-country
resources, in the Dominican Republic the rebels had seized USIS’
physical plant, and the agency was unable to disseminate information.
Caught unprepared, the Army had to increase its psychological warfare
contingent from a small detachment to an entire battalion. A similar situation existed with regard to military policemen, whom Palmer found
were “literally worth their weight in gold.” Eventually military policemen arrived in battalion strength. A greater application of doctrinal
principles by Army planners would have redressed these shortcomings
and resulted in a smoother operation from the beginning.46
Doctrine in the Aftermath of the Dominican Intervention
The military made extensive efforts to learn from the Dominican
experience. The Joint Chiefs and the three services all initiated lessons
learned programs. Both U.S. Forces, Dominican Republic, and the 82d
Airborne Division compiled multivolume reports, while the Army established a special center that debriefed returning soldiers and distilled their
recollections into precepts to be applied in future Cold War operations.
These reports were distributed to appropriate officials for planning and
training considerations, as well as to the Army War College, whose students would study the Dominican crisis for the next five years.
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
Although many of the lessons derived from these efforts pertained
to technical matters relevant to almost any contingency operation or
deployment, some did indeed focus on the distinctive aspects of overseas constabulary and intervention service. One lesson widely derived
by Army commentators was the need to use overwhelming force early in
an intervention to overawe one’s opponents. Many officers believed that
the rapid deployment of a large and capable force had helped minimize
the fighting in the Dominican Republic, and they roundly criticized
initial plans that had envisioned employing only three battalions.
A corollary to this argument was that the best time to intervene was
early in a crisis, before the opposition had time to marshal its forces.
While this made sense from a combat standpoint, Army officers also
favored the rapid application of overwhelming force as a way of avoiding
what they regarded as undue political interference in military operations.
The 82d Airborne Division report, for example, stated that the division
could have easily defeated the Constitutionalists and brought the crisis to
a rapid conclusion had it not been reined in by the diplomats and forced
to obey a truce that initially placed U.S. military forces at a disadvantage.
The report thus highlighted the continuing, and perhaps unresolvable,
conflict between military and political needs and objectives in situations
short of war. Had the Army dealt with the operation its way, it could have
ended the conflict quicker and on a much sounder military basis, but at
a much higher cost in lives and political capital and without the opportunity for obtaining the relatively peaceful resolution that was ultimately
achieved, all of which were of great concern to civilian policy makers.
Palmer understood this, but ultimately both York and Alvim were relieved
from duty when their military and ideological preferences clashed with
those of civilian policy makers.47
The exasperation that some soldiers voiced with regard to the degree
of political interference they had endured during the Dominican intervention did not mean that Army officers objected to civilian control.
Indeed, all post-operation analyses emphasized the need for continuous
and close coordination between civilian and military agencies during
situations short of war. Such cooperation would help ensure that military force would serve political goals under difficult and often rapidly
changing circumstances. But the Army also advocated closer coordination as a way of ensuring that politicians would have to take military
considerations into account in formulating their policies, something
many officers believed had not been adequately achieved during the
Dominican crisis. Moreover, while acceding to the principle of ultimate
civilian control, Palmer and his subordinates urged a return to the principles of decentralized execution and mission-type orders, arguing that
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the people on the ground—the intervention commander and the ambassador—and not military and civilian officials in Washington, should be
the ones making day-to-day tactical decisions.48
Other lessons learned, or relearned, as a result of the Dominican
experience included the need for mental and organizational flexibility,
the inevitability of public controversy during foreign interventions, the
critical importance of acquiring and rapidly disseminating intelligence
(especially information regarding political and social conditions), and
the need for restraint in employing firepower and handling the population. The operation also served to drive home to the Army at large the
importance of limited contingency missions and the need to be prepared
for them, a message Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson
had been pushing for several months prior to the intervention.
General Johnson believed that America’s strategy of combating
communism in third world countries through political, social, and
economic programs would fail unless those programs were protected
from subversive forces. Affording that security—either through military assistance programs or by direct intervention—was, in Johnson’s
opinion, the most important contribution the Army could make toward
winning the Cold War. In 1964 General Johnson had coined the phrase
“stability operations” to describe such activities, which he asserted
were the “third principal mission of the Army,” along with waging general and limited warfare.49
General Palmer fully embraced the chief of staff ’s philosophy,
and during the Dominican intervention he frequently referred to the
stability operation concept, stating that the goal of such operations was
neither “to maintain the status quo, . . . nor to support any particular
faction or political group, but rather to establish a climate of order in
which political, psychological, economic, sociological and other forces
can work in a peaceful environment.” His experience in the Dominican
Republic, however, led him to concede that these goals were difficult
to achieve, and consequently he concluded in his official report that the
United States should carefully weigh any intervention decision before
committing its forces to what might prove to be a “bottomless pit.”50
The Dominican intervention thus bequeathed the Army many
valuable insights into the intricate and sometimes treacherous nature
of situations short of war. Yet the Army incorporated relatively few of
these lessons into its official manuals. Firsthand experience on the part
of participants and the ideas derived from the many reports that followed the intervention certainly had an impact, especially at the planning and technical levels, but other lessons either remained unlearned
or were not applied, just as had been the case after Lebanon. Human
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
and bureaucratic inertia partially accounted for this situation, but other
factors contributed as well.
To begin with, many of the technical and tactical lessons derived from
the Dominican experience were not new at all but were already expressed
in Army literature. Thus the lack of attention to civil affairs and psychological warfare concerns in Army intervention plans represented less a
doctrinal gap than a failure to apply already existent doctrine. Moreover,
the very nature of overseas contingency and constabulary operations
continued to defy the formulation of more detailed doctrine. While the
Army undoubtedly would have benefited had it given the lessons of the
Dominican intervention more attention in its doctrinal literature, ultimately many problems characteristic of stability operations could not be
reduced to pat answers and fixed procedures. Even General Palmer, who
fully appreciated the unique challenges posed by situations short of war,
puzzled over how best to prepare for such contingencies. “How do you
forewarn troops, trained to be aggressive, hard hitting, and tough, for such
missions requiring great restraint?” wondered Palmer. “I don’t know the
answer. But I do know that it takes superbly disciplined, intelligent, and
alert troops.” These were qualities expected of all U.S. soldiers, and consequently he doubted that troops needed special training for stability operations, noting that “peacekeeping demands the same disciplined, skilled
troops as does combat.” Rather than special training, Palmer believed that
preparing troops for constabulary duties was more a matter of indoctrination—that is, of acquainting them with the political objectives of their
mission, acculturating them to the local scene, and teaching them to be
open minded enough to adapt to the exigencies of the moment.51 These
principles were already incorporated into Army doctrine, and consequently, Army manuals published after the Dominican intervention differed in
neither scope nor substance from those published before the operation.
The Army also did not develop a doctrine specific to peacekeeping
operations. With the exception of a few minor adjustments in wording, the 1968 edition of FM 100–5, Operations of Army Forces in the
Field, contained concepts virtually unchanged from those that had first
emerged a decade before, a situation that continued until 1976, when
the Army deleted stability operations from FM 100–5 altogether. The
same situation obtained in other Army manuals of the late 1960s and
early 1970s, which not only did not update their doctrine, but gradually
phased out all coverage of situations short of war, cold war operations,
and stability operations.52
The apparent willingness of the United States to intervene directly
in the internal troubles of other nations during the mid-1960s, as exhibited by the deployment of U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic and
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
South Vietnam in 1965, did, however, cause the Army to reevaluate its
organizational approach to stability operations. Noting that the Special
Action Forces suffered from a number of organizational and administrative deficiencies, in October 1965 General Johnson approved a
proposal to replace them with Regional Assistance Commands (RACs)
in each overseas unified theater command. Although designed to perform the same advisory functions as the SAF, the RAC differed fundamentally from the Special Action Force in that it substituted a combat
brigade for the SAF’s Special Forces group, thereby giving RACs the
ability to spearhead an intervention operation. The Regional Assistance
Command thus reflected a reversion to the more activist posture contained in the original proposal for Cold War task forces.
Because of personnel shortages associated with mobilizing for the
Vietnam War, General Johnson decided to phase the RACs in gradually,
beginning with U.S. Southern Command, the Panama-based unified
command devoted to Latin America. The proposed Latin American
Regional Assistance Command, however, quickly ran afoul of political
considerations. Senior officials in the Departments of State and Defense
balked at stationing a Regional Assistance Command in Panama on the
grounds that Latin Americans would react negatively to the prospect
of having an intervention corps based in their midst. As the conflict in
Vietnam continued to escalate, the Army placed the RAC concept on
hold until the end of the war, at which point it scrapped the idea altogether due to force reductions and a clear recognition of the public’s
dwindling interest in overseas adventures. Meanwhile, the ostensibly
less threatening, advisory-oriented SAFs remained in place, reinforced
as before by backup brigades drawn from the Strategic Army Corps.
After Vietnam, however, the Army drastically reduced both the number
of Special Forces personnel and the amount of counterinsurgency and
constabulary training given to the backup brigades. By the early 1980s
students at the Command and General Staff College refused to take
seriously exercises that called for employing backup brigades in independent intervention roles, noting that the United States had never used
these units in such a capacity in the past. By then, whatever claims the
backup brigades could have made to being culturally attuned, specially
trained “short-of-war” formations had clearly fallen by the wayside.53
The stagnation and ultimate demise of overseas constabulary doctrine should not lead one to conclude that the Army ignored subjects
pertinent to situations short of war after the Dominican intervention.
Instead, the Army’s attention was absorbed by events in Vietnam
and the doctrinal behemoth of the 1960s—counterinsurgency. So
obsessed were U.S. civil and military officials with the need to combat
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
Communist-inspired insurgencies during the 1960s that this one form
of Cold War activity eventually absorbed the broader subject of situations short of war. Although this development meant that some aspects
of situations short of war—such as peacekeeping and international
truce enforcement—never had a chance to develop doctrinally, many of
the basic principles contained in Army doctrine for situations short of
war did find expression in the burgeoning counterinsurgency literature
of the 1960s.
Barry Blechman and Stephen Kaplan, Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as
a Political Instrument (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1978), pp. 226–33.
Quote from Margaret Bodron, “U.S. Intervention in Lebanon—1958,” Military
Review 56 (February 1976): 72. Roger Spiller, ‘Not War But Like War’: The American
Intervention in Lebanon (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: Combat Studies Institute, 1981), pp.
14–18; U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR), The U.S. Army Task Force in Lebanon, 1959,
p. 2, copy in CMH; Charles Koburger, “Morning Coats and Brass Hats,” Military Review
45 (April 1965): 68.
Spiller, Not War But Like War, pp. 12, 18, 25; Koburger, “Morning Coats,” p. 70;
Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without War, p. 237; USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon,
p. 32.
Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without War, pp. 232–33; USAREUR, Task Force in
Lebanon, p. 42.
Bodron, “Intervention in Lebanon,” p. 74; Lynn Smith, “Lebanon—Professionalism
at Its Best,” Military Review 39 (June 1959): 39; Spiller, Not War But Like War, p. 41.
Smith, “Lebanon,” p. 43; USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon, pp. 42, 44, 47–48;
David Gray, The U.S. Intervention in Lebanon, 1958: A Commander’s Reminiscence
(Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: Combat Studies Institute, 1984), p. 39.
Koburger, “Morning Coats,” p. 73; USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon, pp.
Quote from Smith, “Lebanon,” p. 40, and see also p. 46. Bodron, “Intervention
in Lebanon,” pp. 74–75; Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without War, pp. 239, 247–48,
Spiller, Not War But Like War, pp. 37–38, 44; Gary Wade, Rapid Deployment
Logistics: Lebanon, 1958 (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: Combat Studies Institute, 1984), p.
81; USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon, p. 40.
Quoted words from Koburger, “Morning Coats,” p. 73, and see also p. 71.
USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon, pp. 61–62; Wade, Rapid Deployment Logistics,
pp. 66–67.
Status of forces agreements explain the rights and obligations of American forces
stationed overseas and of the foreign government that is hosting them. They typically
cover issues like troop movements, basing privileges, labor relations, legal jurisdictions,
and compensation for property damage. USAREUR, Task Force in Lebanon, pp. 62, 70,
74–75; Wade, Rapid Deployment Logistics, pp. 5–6, 66–69, 72, 75; Spiller, Not War But
Like War, pp. 38–39; Smith, “Lebanon,” p. 45.
Gray, U.S. Intervention in Lebanon, pp. 25–26.
Quote from FM 7–100, The Infantry Division, 1958, p. 202, and see also p. 203.
First and second quoted words from ibid., pp. 203 and 205, respectively. Third
quote from ibid., p. 207.
First, second, and third quotes from ibid., pp. 204, 203, and 207, respectively.
Quote from ibid., p. 207, and see also pp. 204–05, 209.
Doctrine for situations short of war was developed in 1956 and first appeared
in the initial draft manuscript for FM 7–100, The Infantry Division, in January 1957.
Continental Army Command (CONARC) published the draft manual as Training Text
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
7–100–2, “The Infantry Division,” in March 1957. The material did not find formal
expression in an officially approved manual, however, until May 1958—two months
before the Lebanon intervention—with the publication of FM 17–100, The Armored
Division and Combat Command. FM 17–100 offered only cursory treatment of the subject, which did not receive a full official airing until the publication of the final version
of FM 7–100 in October 1958, just as the Lebanon intervention was ending.
First and second quotes from FM 17–100, The Armored Division and Combat
Command, chg 1, Jun 59, pp. 23 and 22, respectively, and see also p. 21.
FM 30–5, Combat Intelligence, 1960, pp. 9–10; FM 7–100, The Infantry Division,
1960, pp. 240–42; David Gray, “When We Fight a Small War,” Army 10 (July 1960):
27–34; William Kelly, Situations Short of War (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School,
First and second quotes from FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations,
1962, pp. 5 and 155, respectively, and see also pp. 11–12. Osgood, Limited War, p. 20.
Quote from FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations, Operations, 1962, p. 8, and see
also pp. 9, 15–17.
Quotes from ibid., p. 156, and see also pp. 45, 56, 155–62.
FM 41–10, Civil Affairs Operations, 1962, pp. 85–99; USAREUR, Task Force
in Lebanon, pp. 75–76; FM 33–5, Psychological Operations, 1962, pp. 107–10; FM
61–100, The Division, 1962, pp. 4–5, 235–40.
First four quotes from Lesson Plan A4600/9, CGSC, Antiguerrilla Operations in
a Local War, 1958–1959, p. I-4-1. Last quote from ibid., p. V-1. CGSC, The Military
History of the Command and General Staff School, c. 1963, p. 60; Clyde Eddleman, The
Report of Educational Survey Commission of the United States Army Command and
General Staff College, November 1962, p. 12. All at CARL, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.
Lesson Plans 4600/60, CGSC, Anti-Guerrilla Operations in a Limited War,
1959–1960; 4600/1, CGSC, Anti-Guerrilla Operations in a Limited War, 1960–1961;
4112–3/1, CGSC, 1960–1961; 2015/1, CGSC, Infantry Division, Part of a Strategic
Army Strike Force, Deployment in a Situation Short of War, 1960–1961; 4112–3/2,
CGSC, 1961–1962; and R2310–1, CGSC, 1962–1963. All at CARL.
Paul Adams, “Strike Command,” Military Review 42 (May 1962): 2–10.
Quote from Speech, “The Military Aspects of the Cold War,” Decker to the
National Security Seminar, AWC, 8 Jun 61, p. 9, Historians files, CMH.
Lesson Plan R2310/5, CGSC, 1964–1965, app. II to an. M to USCONARC
Training Directive, Counterinsurgency Training, Special Action Force Backup Force
Training, pp. LP 2-3 to LP 2-8, CARL; Addendum to Summary Sheet, DCSOPS to
CSA, 8 Sep 61, sub: U.S. Free World Liaison and Assistance Group (US FLAG), with
atchs, in 380, DCSOPS, 1961, RG 319, NARA.
For Laos’ civic action program, see Harry Walterhouse, A Time To Build: Military
Civic Action—Medium for Economic Development and Social Reform (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 1964), pp. 95–98; Martin Massoglia et al., Military
Civic Action, Evaluation of Military Techniques, 2 vols. (Research Triangle Institute,
1971), 2:vii–18; Oudone Sananikone, “Laos: Case Study in Civic Action, The Royal
Lao Program,” Military Review 43 (December 1963): 44–54; Charles Stockell, “Laos,
Case Study in Civic Action, The Military Program,” Military Review 43 (December
1963): 55–63; Memo, Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), for JCS, 21 Feb 63,
sub: Lessons Learned, MAAG and Special Forces Activities in Laos, pp. 13–14, Geog
V Laos, 350.05 Lessons Learned, CMH.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Timothy Castle, At War in the Shadow of Vietnam: U.S. Military Aid to the Royal
Lao Government, 1955–1975 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 7–46;
Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without War, pp. 136–41.
“Thailand Album,” Army Information Digest 18 (January 1963): 8–11; William
Burr, “The Use of U.S. Army Power in Nonviolent Support of Political Objectives (The
Role of the Army in the Cold War)” (Student thesis, AWC, 1963), p. 16; Burton Lesh,
“Lessons Learned: Thailand,” Infantry 54 (March–April 1964): 59.
For the war in Laos, see Castle, War in the Shadow of Vietnam; Douglas
Blaufarb, Organizing and Managing Unconventional Warfare in Laos, 1962–1970,
RAND–R–919–ARPA (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1972); Ben Baldwin et al.,
Case Study of United States Counterinsurgency Operations in Laos, 1955–1962,
RAC–T–435, Research Analysis Corporation, 1964; Roger Warner, Back Fire: The
CIA’s Secret War in Laos and Its Link to the War in Vietnam (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1995); Oudone Sananikone, The Royal Lao Army and U.S. Army Advice and
Support, Indochina Monographs (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military
History, 1981).
Lawrence Yates, Power Pack: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic (Fort
Leavenworth, Kans.: Combat Studies Institute, 1988), pp. 14–66; Blechman and Kaplan,
Force Without War, pp. 291–93, 303–08; Lawrence Greenberg, U.S. Army Unilateral and
Coalition Operations in the 1965 Dominican Republic Intervention (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1987), pp. 13–16.
Jerome Slater, Intervention and Negotiation: The United States and the Dominican
Republic (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp. 199–200; Blechman and Kaplan, Force
Without War, pp. 308–10.
Quoted words from Yates, Power Pack, p. 86.
Ibid., pp. 79, 93–95; Abraham Lowenthall, The Dominican Intervention (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), pp. 100, 108, 119–20, 125; Bruce Palmer, “The
Army in the Dominican Republic,” Army 15 (November 1965): 44; William Klein,
“Stability Operations in Santo Domingo,” Infantry 56 (May–June 1966): 36; Rpt, United
States Forces, Dominican Republic (USFORDR), 1965, Stability Operations, Dominican
Republic, pt. 1, vol. 1, pp. 7–10, copy in CMH (hereafter cited as USFORDR Rpt).
Birtle, Counterinsurgency Doctrine, pp. 191–231; P. Haley, “Comparative
Intervention: Mexico in 1914 and Dominica in 1965,” in Robin Higham, ed.,
Intervention or Abstention: The Dilemma of American Foreign Policy (Lexington:
University of Kentucky, 1975), pp. 41, 49; Yates, Power Pack, pp. 77, 96, 98; Blechman
and Kaplan, Force Without War, p. 310.
Yates, Power Pack, pp. 142–43; Mark Gillespie et al., The Sergeants Major of the
Army (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1995), p. 117.
Yates, Power Pack, pp. 73–74, 96, 119, 140–43, 177; CONARC, The Role of the
U.S. Continental Army Command in Operations in the Dominican Republic, 1965,
1966, pp. 109–10, 136, copy in CMH.
Yates, Power Pack, pp. 158–59; Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without War, pp.
Quoted words from Yates, Power Pack, p. 156, and see also pp. 49–50, 146–55;
Frederick Turner, “Experiment in Inter-American Peace-Keeping,” Army 17 (June
1967): 34–39.
Yates, Power Pack, pp. 133, 139, 163, 169; Blechman and Kaplan, Force Without
War, pp. 327–28; Study of Civil Affairs Organization, atch to Memo, U.S. Army
Cold War Contingency Operations, 1958–1965
Combat Developments Command (USACDC) Institute of Strategic Studies Stability
Operations (Prov) for the CG, Combat Developments Command (CDC), 17 Apr 69,
sub: Evaluation of Civil Affairs Organization, p. 3, Historians files, CMH; James
Clingham, “‘All American’ Team Work,” Army Information Digest 22 (January 1967):
21; USFORDR Rpt, pt. 4, vol. 1, pp. vi-3 to vi-4, vi-9 to vi-10, vi-20-1 to vi-20-12;
Wallace Moulis and Richard Brown, “Key to a Crisis,” Military Review 46 (February
1966): 13.
Bruce Palmer, Jr., Intervention in the Caribbean: The Dominican Crisis of 1965
(Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1989), pp. 142, 148, 153; Greenberg,
U.S. Army Unilateral and Coalition Operations, pp. 95–96; Slater, Intervention and
Negotiation, p. 205; Yates, Power Pack, pp. 171–73; Blechman and Kaplan, Force
Without War, p. 340.
Wade, Rapid Deployment Logistics, p. 80; Yates, Power Pack, pp. viii, 56, 65,
176; Rpt, Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Weapon System
Evaluation Group (WSEG), 16 Aug 66, sub: The Dominican Republic Crisis of 1965,
pp. 254–55, in 091 Dominican Republic, CMH (hereafter cited as WSEG Rpt).
Yates, Power Pack, p. 99; Lawrence Greenberg, “The U.S. Dominican Intervention:
Success Story,” Parameters 17 (December 1987): 19; WSEG Rpt, p. 269.
Yates, Power Pack, pp. 56–59; Palmer, Intervention in the Caribbean, pp. 148–52,
156; WSEG Rpt, pp. 266–67.
Quote from USFORDR Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 1, p. 19. Case Study 5–01, Dominican
Republic, Course 5, AWC, 1968, p. 20, MHI; Disposition Form (DF), A. K. Marttinen,
OPS SOOP to OPS ODWH, 26 Jul 65, sub: United States Army Psychological
Operations During DomRep Crisis, p. 3, Historians files, CMH; Yates, Power Pack,
pp. 136–39; John Kallunki, Operations of the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion
(Broadcast and Leaflet), in Support of Counterinsurgency Operations in the Dominican
Republic, 3 May 1965 to 10 May 1965 (personal experience of graphics and printing
team leader) (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1968).
CONARC, Role of U.S. Continental Army Command in Operations in the
Dominican Republic, pp. 136, 205; Klein, “Stability Operations,” pp. 38–39; Yates,
Power Pack, pp. 120, 124, 142, 169, 177; USFORDR Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 1, pp. 2, 7–10, 20;
Palmer, Intervention in the Caribbean, pp. 80, 158; Harold Johnson, “Subversion and
Insurgency: Search for a Doctrine,” Army 15 (November 1965): 41; Slater, Intervention
and Negotiation, pp. 194–95; Rpt, 82d Airborne Division, 1965, Stability Operations in
the Dominican Republic, pt. 1, vol. 4, ch. 17, p. 2, CARL (hereafter cited as 82d Abn
Div Rpt); Frank Galati, “Military Intervention in Latin America: Analysis of the 1965
Crisis in the Dominican Republic” (Master of Military Arts and Sciences (MMAS)
thesis, CGSC, 1983), pp. 114–18.
82d Abn Div Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 4, ch. 17, p. 1; Palmer, Intervention in the Caribbean,
pp. 155–56; USFORDR Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 1, pp. 19–20.
Quotes from Harold Johnson, “Landpower Missions Unlimited,” Army 14
(November 1964): 41–42; Harold Johnson, “The Army’s Role in Nation Building and
Preserving Stability,” Army Information Digest 20 (November 1965): 6–13; Stephen
Bowman, “The Evolution of United States Army Doctrine for Counterinsurgency
Warfare: From World War II to the Commitment of Combat Units in Vietnam”
(Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1985), pp. 129–30; Palmer, Intervention in the Caribbean,
pp. 156–57; 82d Abn Div Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 2, p. 14; Yates, Power Pack, pp. 178–79;
USFORDR Rpt, pt. 1, vol. 1, pp. 19–20.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
First quote from Yates, Power Pack, p. 73. Second quote from USFORDR Rpt, pt.
1, vol. 1, p. 2. Greenberg, “Dominican Intervention,” p. 27; Palmer, Intervention in the
Caribbean, p. 158.
First quote from Bruce Palmer, “Lessons from the Dominican Stability Operation,”
Army 16 (November 1966): 41. Second quote from Palmer, Intervention in the
Caribbean, p. 159.
Ralph Hinrichs, “U.S. Involvement in Low Intensity Conflict Since World War
II: Three Case Studies—Greece, Dominican Republic, and Vietnam” (Master’s thesis,
CGSC, 1984), pp. 4–16; FM 100–5, Operations of Army Forces in the Field, 1968,
pp. 1–2, 12-1 to 12-5. See also FM 100–5, Operations, 1976; FM 41–10, Civil Affairs
Operations, 1967 and 1969 editions; FM 33–5, Psychological Operations—Techniques
and Procedures, 1966; FM 61–100, The Division, 1965 and 1968 editions.
Peter Kafkalas, “Low Intensity Conflict and Today’s U.S. Army: An Assessment”
(Master’s thesis, Harvard University, 1984), pp. 97–102; CDC, Analysis of the Validity
of Special Action Forces (SAF), 1965, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA; Summary
Sheet, Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development (ACSFOR) to CSA, 16 Oct 65,
sub: Planning and Programming Forces for Stability Operations, 68A2344, RG 319,
NARA; Fact Sheet, DSDC, 6 Jan 67, sub: U.S. Army Regional Assistance Command
(RAC) Concept, with atchs, in 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA.
The Counterinsurgency
Ferment, 1961–1965
On 6 January 1961, four days before the Army published its new
doctrinal guidance on counterguerrilla warfare in FM 100–1, Soviet
Premier Nikita Khrushchev declared his nation’s support of wars of
national liberation. With several dozen insurgencies already percolating around the globe, Khrushchev’s words signaled an escalation of
what appeared to be a deliberate strategy to undermine Western institutions where they were weakest, in the emerging nations of the third
world. Not one to let a challenge go unmet, President John F. Kennedy
announced in his 20 January inaugural address that America would
“pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”1
Kennedy and the Army
Kennedy’s strategy for rescuing the underdeveloped world from
communism rested on three pillars—economic development, political
reform, and military assistance. Of these, military action was the least
important. As Kennedy explained in a May 1961 address to Congress,
insurgency was really more of a “battle for minds and souls” rather
than of weapons, for “no amount of arms and armies can help stabilize
those governments which are unable or unwilling to achieve social and
economic reform and development. Military pacts cannot help nations
whose social injustice and economic chaos invite insurgency and
penetration and subversion. The most skillful counter-guerrilla efforts
cannot succeed where the local population is too caught up in its own
misery to be concerned about the advance of communism.”2
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Kennedy’s approach differed from that of prior administrations
less in substance than in style. A charismatic leader, Kennedy turned
the fight against communism into a national crusade. He rallied public support, expanded foreign aid programs, and created the Peace
Corps to spread American ideas to the peoples of the world. To guide
this effort, the president recruited to his administration the “best and
the brightest” America’s universities and corporations had to offer,
including the leading proponent of economic development and nationbuilding theory, Walt Rostow. These “action intellectuals” preached a
creed of social engineering that proved quite popular, resonating as
it did with several deeply ingrained aspects of the American psyche,
including liberal progressivism, Christian evangelicalism, and cultural chauvinism, not to mention the nation’s growing acceptance of
government activism as a remedy for social ills. Together, Rostow’s
theory about the revolution of rising expectations, and Kennedy’s
proposed solution—sociopolitical reforms that would win the “hearts
and minds” of disaffected peoples the world over—created an “ideology of modernization” that would dominate American strategic policy
for the next decade.3
While the president considered political reform and economic
development to be the key weapons against communism, he did not
neglect the Cold War’s military aspects. He abandoned Eisenhower’s
nuclear-oriented doctrine in favor of a strategy of “flexible response”
designed to meet every form of Communist aggression without having
to use nuclear weapons. He initiated a major buildup that by 1965 had
added five new divisions and nearly $10 billion worth of new materiel
to the U.S. Army. He also authorized the Army to recast its combat
divisions into a new organization, the Reorganization Objective Army
Division (ROAD), whose conventionally oriented, flexible structure
was much more adaptable to the president’s purposes than the nuclearoriented pentomic division of the Eisenhower era.4
But improving America’s ability to wage wars without resorting
to nuclear weapons was only part of the president’s program. More
important in his mind were initiatives designed to meet the threat
posed by “sub-limited” war—guerrilla action, insurgency, and subversion. Kennedy shared the view voiced by fellow politician Hubert
H. Humphrey that Maoist revolutionary warfare represented nothing less than “a bold new form of aggression which could rank in
military importance with the invention of gunpowder.” The politicians
were not alone in this assessment, as many social scientists, strategists, and commentators also propounded this view. In answer to the
president’s call to arms, the nation’s intellectuals rushed to put forward
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
various theories about the insurgency threat, creating in the process
an atmosphere of “overthink” similar to that which had prevailed in
the 1950s with regard to nuclear warfare. Fascinated by the black arts
of guerrilla warfare, espionage, and propaganda and convinced that
Maoist revolutionary warfare was qualitatively different than anything
heretofore known, Kennedy insisted that “it is nonsense to think that
regular forces trained for conventional war can handle jungle guerrillas adequately.” Consequently, he demanded that the Army devise
“a wholly new kind of strategy; a wholly different kind of force and
therefore a new and different kind of military training” to meet what
he considered to be the preeminent threat of the day.5
For the most part, the Army responded positively to President
Kennedy’s security initiatives. It strongly supported the new doctrine
of flexible response, accepted the necessity of developing countermeasures to Communist insurgent warfare, and readily embraced both
Rostow’s theory about the revolution of rising expectations and the
president’s nation-building counterstrategy. Although many officers
felt uncomfortable with suggestions that they be transformed from
warriors into social engineers, they challenged neither the importance
of political considerations in counterinsurgency nor the notion that
specialists were required to deal with insurgency’s many political and
social facets. As Army Chief of Staff General George H. Decker himself conceded,
our splendid field armies in Europe and Korea and in reserve in the United
States . . . are designed for conventional and tactical nuclear warfare. Their
purpose is to meet clearly-defined, large-scale military threats. Obviously
these units are not the proper response to a band of guerrillas which in a flash
will transform itself into a scattering of “farmers.” Neither are they best geared
to move into a weak country and help it move up the development ladder by
training local forces to improve the people’s health, transportation, and building program.6
Moreover, the Army maintained that introducing large ground
forces into a highly charged nationalistic environment could well prove
to be the “kiss of death” for the government the United States was trying to aid. Consequently, it shared the president’s interest in creating
small, specialist formations and of improving the nation’s advisory
and assistance programs. This was evidenced by Decker’s 1960 recommendations to increase the size of Special Forces and to create Cold
War task forces, proposals that eventually bore fruit in the form of the
Special Action Forces and the SAF backup brigades. But at this point,
Decker and the president parted company. For Kennedy was not content
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Army Chief of Staff General Decker chats with soldiers who were playing
the role of villagers during a counterguerrilla training exercise.
with making minor adjustments around the edges of American defense
policy. Rather, he wanted to transform the entire U.S. Army, both
mentally and structurally, into the type of politically astute, socially
conscious, and guerrilla-savvy force that he believed was necessary to
combat Maoist-style revolutions—and General Decker did not.7
To begin with, Decker questioned the wisdom of overhauling the
military to meet third world contingencies on the grounds that “our
primary interest must be in Europe. With the exception of Japan,
the areas of the East have nothing to contribute toward our survival.
Therefore we could lose in Asia without losing everything, but to
lose in Europe would be fatal.” Indeed, the Army had a very practical dilemma—the president insisted that it restructure itself without
jeopardizing its other missions, including the defense of Europe and
Korea. Lacking the time, money, and manpower to create different
armies for different types of warfare, the Army favored a more gradual introduction of counterinsurgency than the president was willing
to tolerate.8
Although he did not doubt that the United States needed to be
able to fight guerrillas effectively, Decker also challenged Kennedy’s
assertion that conventional soldiers were incapable of defeating
irregulars. He regarded such talk as excessive and ahistorical, believing instead that, with proper preparation, “any good soldier can
handle guerrillas.” He was not alone, as many other military leaders,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
including Joint Chiefs Chairman General Lyman L. Lemnitzer; the
president’s personal military adviser and future chairman of the Joint
Chiefs, General Maxwell D. Taylor; and Marine Corps Maj. Gen.
Victor H. Krulak, the Joint Chiefs’ point man for counterinsurgency,
shared Decker’s opinion.9
Kennedy regarded such sentiments as heresy and attempted to
quash them. During his three-year tenure the president issued no fewer
than twenty-three National Security Action Memorandums pertaining
to counterinsurgency—formal ukases that demanded immediate compliance. He peppered his military advisers with questions, scrutinized
their answers closely, and requested periodic updates on the state of the
counterinsurgency program. He let everyone know that he considered
counterinsurgency experience to be an important factor in determining promotions, and many believed that he did not renew Generals
Decker’s and Lemnitzer’s tenures on the grounds that they had failed
to demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm for his counterinsurgency initiatives. Finally, in January 1962 Kennedy formed an interagency task
force, the Special Group (Counterinsurgency), with the mission of
ensuring “proper recognition throughout the United States government
that subversive insurgency (‘wars of liberation’) is a major form of
politico-military conflict equal in importance to conventional warfare,”
and “that such recognition is reflected in the organization, training,
equipment and doctrine of the United States armed forces and other
United States agencies.”10
In pressing his agenda the president was not without allies within
the Army, including Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough, commander of
the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, and Brig. Gen. William B.
Rosson, the special assistant to the chief of staff for special warfare
activities. Together with elements drawn largely from the Special
Forces, psyops, and civil affairs communities, these “young moderns”
advanced Kennedy’s agenda from within with some success. But
this success came at a price, for like all bureaucratic institutions, the
Army cherished its institutional autonomy, and many soldiers resented
Kennedy’s interference in what they believed were internal matters that
were best left to professionals.11
The Army was not alone in opposing aspects of the president’s
counterinsurgency initiative. The State Department flatly resisted
the more operational role that the president expected it to play in
orchestrating the counterinsurgency effort. There also existed in
the State Department a core of officials who “appeared to consider
problems of internal conflict a diversion from their main interest of
foreign policy and diplomacy, and something that would, if played
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
President Kennedy talks with General Yarborough at
Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
down long enough, eventually be resolved in the normal course of
international relations.” Similar sentiments existed within the Agency
for International Development (AID), which resisted suggestions that
it abandon its traditional long-term development projects for more
short-term, civic action-type activities—activities that the agency
tended to dismiss as gimmickry. AID showed equal disinterest in
improving indigenous police forces, a key counterinsurgency program that it controlled but which seemed out of step with its primary
socioeconomic mission. Finally, all civilian agencies feared that the
counterinsurgency movement represented a militarization of policy
that would give military men influence in areas that had previously
been the exclusive domain of civilians, a fear that further impeded
interagency coordination. In fact, Kennedy created the Special Group
in 1962 largely due to frustration over the unwillingness of civilian
agencies to jump on the counterinsurgency bandwagon.12
Nevertheless, foot dragging—perceived or real—on the part of
the Army usually brought the strongest reaction from the president.
Given the innate tendency of bureaucracies to resist outside interference, the president believed that he had to keep the pressure on if he
was to have any hope of seeing the government adopt his programs
in a speedy fashion. But deep down, many soldiers continued to feel
uncomfortable with a process that they believed had politicized military doctrine.13
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Sources of Doctrine
Misgivings aside, the Army moved with due diligence in formulating a doctrine for defeating wars of national liberation. In the process,
its doctrine writers cast a wide net. They consulted outside experts,
examined published works, and sponsored research. They read the
works of Mao Tse-tung and the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che”
Guevara, whose 1960 book, On Guerrilla Warfare, the Army rushed to
translate. Military doctrine writers also mined recent counterinsurgency operations for nuggets of useful information. Because of the covert
nature of American activities in Laos, relatively little emerged from
that conflict into the broader doctrinal world. On the other hand, the
Army made a concerted effort to acquire, digest, and disseminate the
latest lessons generated by the growing insurgency in South Vietnam.
In addition to circulating pertinent reports produced by the Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), the Army established the
Army Concept Team in Vietnam, which used the burgeoning insurgency as a laboratory to test new organizations, equipment, and techniques.
Still, in the early 1960s Vietnam experiences worked mainly along the
edges of doctrine, adding a technique here or a bit of emphasis there
but not changing doctrine’s core principles.14
Compared with America’s ongoing and as yet inconclusive advisory operations in Southeast Asia, the lessons of conflicts already
concluded seemed both clearer and more readily available, and consequently the Army took great pains to study the many irregular conflicts that had occurred over the previous twenty years. Although the
Army continued to examine Wehrmacht techniques, it focused most
of its historical inquiries on more recent conflicts.15 The two the Army
studied most were the Malayan emergency and the Huk rebellion. The
popularity of these events stemmed both from a desire to emulate success and from the fact that information pertaining to them was readily
available in English. As in the late 1950s the Army turned to the British
for examples of civil-military coordination and administration, jungle
tactics, and population-control techniques. From the Philippines, the
Army derived examples of the roles that intelligence, psychological
warfare, and civic action played in suppressing unrest. Unfortunately,
the overwhelming popularity of the Malayan and the Philippine cases
led to a relatively uncritical acceptance of the alleged lessons of these
conflicts. All too often Americans saw only what they wanted to see
in these two episodes. They tended to overestimate the ease and extent
to which resettlement programs and political reforms had won the
hearts and minds of the people while ignoring contradictory evidence
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
and minimizing the role that coercion had contributed to the success
of these campaigns.16 Not until they had had some direct experiences
of their own would Americans begin to question some of their earlier
Malayan- and Philippine-based assumptions.
The Army’s infatuation with Malaya and the Philippines notwithstanding, the service did not ignore the French experience. As it had
done during the previous decade, the Army monitored ongoing operations in Algeria and continued to translate and distribute French texts to
instructors and doctrine writers.17 Most Army schools examined either
the Indochinese or Algerian civil wars in their curriculums, assisted in
some cases by French liaison officers like Lt. Col. Paul Aussaresses,
who visited both the Infantry and Special Warfare schools in the early
1960s. Interested officers could further their studies by consulting a
variety of books and articles that appeared on these two conflicts in
the early 1960s, including the works of journalist/political scientist
Bernard Fall, who was a popular speaker at Army institutions despite
his criticism of American methods in South Vietnam.18 Such study
was not idle curiosity, for according to General Yarborough, special
warfare doctrine writers consciously employed guerre revolutionnaire
theory when fashioning doctrinal tracts.19 Though Americans admired
aspects of French doctrine, most continued to treat French operations in
Indochina as a paradigm for how not to wage a counterinsurgency.
As in the 1950s, Army analysts believed France had lost the
Indochina War due to its shortsighted colonial policies that neither
recognized the legitimacy of Vietnamese nationalism nor introduced
any significant political, social, or economic reforms to win the support
of the Vietnamese people. Army commentators also noted that France
had not committed sufficient forces to win the war, in part due to a
lack of public support back home, which had put the French military
in the unenviable position of trying “to maintain a position of strength
from which some sort of ‘honorable’ settlement might be negotiated.”
Militarily, Army documents criticized the French for fighting conventionally, for moving in road-bound columns, and for dispersing their
forces in a myriad of small, static posts that robbed them of the initiative. Although U.S. soldiers conceded that there were not always easy
solutions to the problems the French had faced, many of them believed
that the reform-oriented, offensive doctrine they were crafting would
allow the United States to avoid many of the mistakes France had made
in Indochina.20
While the Army examined recent foreign experiences with insurgency, it generally ignored its own rich heritage in irregular warfare.
True, Army leaders liked to brag about legendary guerrilla fighters
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
of yesteryear—Robert Rogers and his Rangers during the French
and Indian War, George Crook in Apacheria, J. Franklin Bell in the
Philippines, and John J. Pershing, who fought bandits from Moroland
to Mexico. The exploits of such men may have been relevant had the
Army actually made a determined effort to remember and document
them. In fact, most soldiers had only the vaguest impressions about the
old Army’s counterinsurgency and constabulary operations. Nor did the
Army make much of an effort to correct this deficiency, since it shared
the popular belief that distant wars involving obsolescent technologies
and pre-Communist organizations could not possibly be relevant to
understanding modern insurgency.21
If the Army ignored its own past, there was one source of American
knowledge of which the manual writers of the 1960s did take full
advantage—the Army’s own doctrine as developed in the 1950s. In
word, thought, and concept, the U.S. Army’s response in the 1960s to
the threat of Communist revolutionary warfare ultimately rested in
large part on recycling the lessons Colonel Volckmann had derived a
decade earlier from his study of partisan warfare in World War II. Thus,
while examinations of recent foreign experiences would add richness
and depth to the Army’s understanding of insurgency, they would not
fundamentally alter it.
The Doctrine Development System
Doctrine may be about ideas, but like so many other human
endeavors its final form is frequently influenced as much by the process through which it is created as the ideas themselves. In the case of
counterinsurgency, the development of doctrine was complicated both
by the nature of the subject and the organization of the Army’s doctrinal
development system.
Between 1942 and 1962 a succession of major Army commands—
Army Ground Forces (1942–1948), Army Field Forces (1948–1955),
and Continental Army Command (1955–1962)—had overseen the
Army’s doctrinal, educational, and training activities. Under their
supervision, school faculties, select committees, or specially chosen
individuals like Volckmann had drafted Army manuals. For the most
part, Army schools wrote and disseminated doctrine pertaining to their
particular branch of service, while the Command and General Staff
College prepared upper-level combined arms doctrine. By the early
1960s, however, the Army had decided that the fast pace of technological change had made the task of developing and inculcating doctrine
too difficult for one agency. Consequently, in 1962 General Decker
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
split these functions between Continental Army Command (CONARC)
at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and a new entity, Combat Developments
Command (CDC), at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
According to the arrangement, Combat Developments Command
was responsible for determining the Army’s future needs and developing broad policies and concepts to meet them. It was then to publish
these overarching concepts in doctrinal manuals. The Continental Army
Command, on the other hand, retained control of the Army’s educational and training system. It was responsible for teaching CDC doctrine as well as for developing the tactics, techniques, and procedures
necessary to implement the broad concepts contained in CDC manuals.
Continental Army Command published these applicatory techniques
in what the Army termed training manuals. To facilitate coordination
and communication between the two commands, CDC collocated a
doctrine development agency at each CONARC school. Thus the CDC
Infantry Agency at Fort Benning, Georgia, developed infantry doctrine,
while CONARC’s Infantry School, also at Fort Benning, developed
tactics and techniques to implement that doctrine while teaching the
combined CDC-CONARC material to its students.
After a CDC field agency had drafted a manual, it would forward
the draft to an intermediary CDC group headquarters for review.
Once other CDC field-level agencies had had a chance to comment
on the proposed manual, the manual would next be sent up through
CDC headquarters to a newly created entity on the Pentagon’s Army
Staff—the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development
(OACSFOR)—which in 1963 assumed from the deputy chief of staff
for military operations responsibility for doctrinal development and
manual production within the Army. After coordinating the proposed
doctrine within the Army Staff, OACSFOR would either return the
manual to Combat Developments Command for revision or forward it
to the Office of the Adjutant General for publication.
Although Decker had created Combat Developments Command
to improve the Army’s ability to adapt to a fast changing world, the
process proved cumbersome. CONARC and CDC did not always
coordinate their actions as closely as they should, and for the Army
to take up to three years to produce a manual under the new system
was not unusual. This was clearly an impediment given the urgency
for developing and disseminating new doctrine for counterinsurgency.
The fact that the counterinsurgency wave hit the Army at a time when
it was in the midst of reorganizing its doctrinal system merely exacerbated the already difficult task of developing and integrating new
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Anxious that counterinsurgency not become lost in the organizational shuffle, General Decker created a temporary Remote Area
Conflict Office to expedite the development of counterinsurgency
doctrine. Once Combat Developments Command was up and running,
the Army replaced the office in October 1962 with a permanent CDC
group-level headquarters, the Special Doctrine and Equipment Group.
Located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the group (which the Army renamed
the Special Warfare Group in 1963) worked to ensure that counterinsurgency doctrine was properly incorporated into all applicable manuals. Much of the group’s day-to-day work in this regard fell upon its
subordinate field element, the CDC Special Warfare Agency at Fort
Bragg, North Carolina. In addition to writing doctrine for Special
Forces, psychological operations, and military advisory activities, the
Special Warfare Agency developed basic counterinsurgency doctrine
and reviewed manuals developed by other Army agencies for counterinsurgency content.23 This was not a simple task.
To begin with, the Army had several hundred field manuals in its
inventory, many of which the Special Warfare Agency would have to
review periodically for possible inclusion of counterinsurgency material. In addition to the heavy work load this created for the Special
Warfare Agency, the fact that counterinsurgency cut across branch and
functional lines created a certain degree of conceptual and bureaucratic
friction between it and other CDC entities. The parent agencies for
the Army’s numerous branch and functional manuals did not always
concur with the special warfare community about the degree to which
their manuals needed to incorporate counterinsurgency-related material. Moreover, some confusion existed between the Special Warfare
Agency and other agencies over proponency for certain aspects of
counterinsurgency doctrine. For example, the Civil Affairs Agency at
Fort Gordon, Georgia, believed that the Special Warfare Agency did not
pay it proper deference with regard to counterinsurgency’s many civil
aspects for which Fort Gordon held proponency.
The Army tried to improve the coordination between these two
agencies in 1964 by transferring control of the Civil Affairs Agency
from the Combat Service Support Group to the Special Warfare Group,
which the Army redesignated the Special Warfare and Civil Affairs
Group. However, other tensions simmered between the Special Warfare
Agency and the Infantry Agency, which developed tactical counterguerrilla doctrine, as well as the Institute for Advanced Studies at Carlisle
Barracks, Pennsylvania, which formulated broad, Army-wide concepts,
and the Command and General Staff College and its associated CDC
agency, the Combined Warfare Agency, which held proponency for all
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
doctrinal matters at the army, corps, and division level. Ultimately, all
of these agencies and their related CONARC institutions would at one
time or another hold proponency for some aspects of counterinsurgency
doctrine, and the friction that sometimes developed between them
adversely affected the formulation of doctrine.24
The Evolution of Doctrine, 1961–1964
The Army published its first response to the president’s counterinsurgency drive—FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces—just
four months after Kennedy assumed office. The rapid appearance of
this manual stemmed from the fact that the Command and General
Staff College had written the bulk of it prior to Kennedy’s election.
The manual, which replaced FM 31–15, Operations Against Airborne
Attack, Guerrilla Action, and Infiltration (1953), provided broad guidance concerning the conduct of counterguerrilla operations, repeating
and amplifying the doctrine that had just been published a few months
before in FM 100–1.
Operations Against Irregular Forces opened with the premise that
guerrilla warfare was merely the “outward manifestation” of public
disenchantment with certain political, social, and economic conditions.
This premise led to two conclusions: first, that a guerrilla movement
required at least some degree of public support to flourish, and second,
that the only permanent solution to an insurgency was to rectify the
conditions that had given rise to it in the first place. Military action,
unaccompanied by meaningful reforms, could at best suppress, but
never completely eradicate, a heartfelt revolutionary movement.25
FM 31–15 (1961) followed the 1960 ODCSOPS handbook in
identifying four tasks that had to be achieved to defeat guerrillas and
prevent their resurgence. First and foremost, government authorities
had to establish an effective intelligence system. Second, through a
combination of military and police measures, the Army had to separate
the irregulars both physically and psychologically from the population
and all sources of support—internal and external. Third, the Army had
to destroy the guerrillas as a military force. Finally, the government
would have to reeducate the dissidents, rebuild damaged institutions,
and redress the causes of discontent.
To help commanders accomplish these tasks the manual offered
five operational principles. The first principle was unity of command,
as it recommended that a single person be placed in charge of all civil
and military counterinsurgency programs at each level of command.
Corollaries to this principle included the need to develop an integrated
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
politico-military campaign plan, the desirability of maintaining continuity of personnel in a particular area to promote regional expertise,
and the utility of creating a combined command to coordinate the
activities of U.S. and indigenous military forces. The remaining principles also stressed concepts that had appeared in previous American
doctrine—respect for human rights, offensive operations, and the creation of mobile task forces. Finally, the manual reiterated that police,
combat, and political operations all had to be conducted simultaneously
throughout the course of a campaign, despite the fact that in any particular stage one of those methods might predominate over the others.26
Like earlier writings, FM 31–15 (1961) adopted a strategy of progressive area clearance. The force commander would establish regional
commands, normally along existing political boundaries, in order to
facilitate civil-military coordination. Within each region, subareas
would be created, with each being cleared in turn according to government priorities and troop availability. Once an area was cleared, the
commander would leave behind a sufficient number of troops, backed
by a large number of police, paramilitary, and village defense forces, to
prevent a guerrilla resurgence, while the bulk of the soldiers moved on
to the next area to be cleared.
The manual enumerated four types of military operations that
were to be conducted during a counterguerrilla campaign: reaction
operations, in which mobile reserves responded to guerrilla sightings
or actions; harassment operations, in which small patrols and raiding
parties beleaguered the enemy, keeping him fragmented and on the
move; denial operations that sought to block guerrilla access to external sources of supply; and elimination operations that were offensive
actions designed to destroy guerrilla units once intelligence or reconnaissance forces had “definitely located” them. The manual repeated
earlier doctrine in making the destruction of the enemy, not the capture
of ground, the primary objective, prescribing encirclement as the most
effective, if admittedly difficult, means of achieving this end.27
While military operations broke up the irregulars and drove them
away from populated areas, FM 31–15 (1961) prescribed a variety of
intelligence, psychological warfare, civic action, and police measures
to complete the separation of the guerrillas from the people. In line
with previous doctrine, the manual required that commanders achieve a
delicate balance between benevolence and repression. Thus, the manual
advised that “persons whose property is searched and whose goods are
seized should be irritated and frightened to such an extent that they
will neither harbor irregular force members nor support them in the
future. Conversely, the action must not be so harsh as to drive them to
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
collaboration with the irregular force because of resentment.” Humane
treatment of prisoners, correct behavior toward inhabitants, and civic
actions were, when necessary, to be supplemented by strict controls
over assembly, movement, and the possession of food, arms, and medicine. The manual authorized commanders to relocate populations from
insecure areas to places where they could be more readily monitored
and protected and recommended instituting a pao chia–style system in
which villagers spied on their neighbors.28
FM 31–15 (1961) recommended several modifications that might
be necessary in conducting a counterguerrilla war. It listed planning
factors to be considered and highlighted the important roles civic action
and intelligence operations would play. It recommended that commanders augment standard infantry battalions with additional rifle companies, an artillery battery, aviation, and detachments of intelligence,
psychological warfare, civil affairs, and military police personnel, not
unlike the battalion combat teams that U.S. advisers had developed
during the Huk rebellion. Finally, the manual echoed earlier doctrine
in pointing out the unique moral and psychological aspects associated
with guerrilla warfare. Among these were frustration born from an
inability to achieve tangible results against an elusive foe, disenchantment derived from prolonged service under primitive living conditions
among an alien population, and fear of guerrilla atrocities. FM 31–15
(1961) also noted the corrosive effects of several conflicting emotions:
the desire to retaliate against civilians for guerrilla misdeeds, “the
ingrained reluctance of the soldier to take repressive measures against
women, children, and old men who usually are active in both overt
and covert irregular activities or who must be resettled or concentrated
for security reasons,” and “the sympathy of some soldiers with certain
stated objectives of the resistance movement such as relief from oppression.” For these and other dilemmas the manual offered no solutions
other than those prescribed a decade earlier by Volckmann—intensive
training, troop indoctrination, and dynamic leadership.29
Operations Against Irregular Forces established the basic outline
of Army counterinsurgency doctrine for the next few years. Subsequent
manuals would amplify and clarify it, adding a few new concepts and
updating its language, but truly substantive changes would be few. FM
31–15 (1961) was not, however, meant to be the Army’s final word
on the subject. Two major areas remained to be addressed. First, the
broad themes contained in the manual needed to be fleshed out with
applicatory methods and techniques. Conversely, the Army believed
that FM 31–15 (1961) needed to be placed in a broader strategic context. This was especially important given counterinsurgency’s many
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
political aspects and the administration’s professed desire to approach
the problem on an interagency basis. But such a doctrine was not the
Army’s to make, as it required policy decisions at the highest levels of
government. Still, as the first agency to have published a counterguerrilla doctrine of any sort, the Army was well positioned to influence
events as they unfolded.
The first step on the road to formulating a national counterinsurgency doctrine occurred nearly a year after the Army had published FM
31–15. In April 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a document titled
“Joint Counterinsurgency Concept and Doctrinal Guidance.” Based
chiefly on input from the Army Staff, the joint concept established
broad guidelines for the military services as they developed organizations and doctrines to meet the threat of Communist insurgency. The
document called for unified action by all government agencies—U.S.
and foreign alike—to create a “fully integrated, mutually supporting
and concurrently applied” mesh of political, military, and socioeconomic programs. Such an approach was essential, “since economic and
political progress are dependent upon reasonable internal security, and
internal security cannot be permanently effective without complementing non-military action.”30
The Joint Chiefs established three roles for the U.S. military as
part of the national counterinsurgency program: providing advice
and assistance in nation building, furnishing advice and assistance in
counterguerrilla operations, and undertaking direct combat action. The
extent of military activity in each of these areas was pegged to the three
stages of a Maoist insurgency. In the first phase, when insurgency was
still latent, U.S. military advisers were to concentrate their efforts on
improving the indigenous military’s civic action, security, and counterguerrilla capabilities. In phase two, under conditions of active guerrilla
warfare, the Americans would continue and intensify these efforts.
Finally, should the insurgency escalate into a full-blown phase three
conflict, the United States as a last resort might intervene. Should it
do so, the joint concept called for the commitment of soldiers trained
in the military, social, and psychological aspects of insurgency, as well
as the language and culture of the afflicted area. The Joint Chiefs also
directed that “U.S. military units employed in any counterinsurgency
role will be tailored to the conditions where insurgency exists. Use of
large combat units will be avoided.” Such stipulations, together with
the injunction that military agencies were to develop individuals for
counterinsurgency duty, indicated that the Pentagon envisioned its role
largely as an advisory one—an approach that reflected administration
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
In the joint concept the Joint Chiefs of Staff assigned to the Army
the task of developing counterinsurgency tactics, techniques, and doctrine for both itself and the Marine Corps. However, the Joint Staff
established a broad conceptual framework within which Army doctrine
would have to operate. Thus the joint concept asserted that the basic
function of military forces was to “insulate the people from the insurgents both physically and psychologically; win and maintain popular
respect, support, and confidence.” To achieve these ends, military
forces were to seal populated areas, clear them of guerrillas, and hold
them against the possibility of a guerrilla resurgence. Operations were
to be continuous, aggressive, and varied, using ruses and deception
to keep the enemy off-balance. Meanwhile, the military would assist
police and government officials in eliminating the last vestiges of civilian support for the insurgents through a combination of civic and psychological actions, counterintelligence activities, security operations,
and “appropriate reprisals.”32
The importance of the joint concept stemmed from the fact that it
imposed on the military services a doctrinal vision that was virtually
identical to the views already held by the Army. It could not, however,
definitively address the larger issues of national policy and the interaction of civil-military agencies. Such policies required higher-level
action—action that occurred in September 1962 when the National
Security Council formally published a government-wide counterinsurgency doctrine, known as the Overseas Internal Defense Policy (OIDP).
The OIDP made Rostow’s nation-building theory the official
policy of the United States government. It enunciated in a formal way
Kennedy’s threefold strategy of applying sociopolitical reforms, economic stimuli, and military assistance as both prophylactics and remedies for the disease of Communist insurgency. Like the joint concept,
the OIDP embraced the Maoist model of revolutionary warfare, using it
as a framework around which to build American countermeasures. The
policy asserted that political, social, and economic reform, not repression, were the keys to defeating subversion. The OIDP also established
as policy the notion that the job of defeating an insurgency rested primarily upon the indigenous government, not the United States. Finally,
the OIDP called for the creation of a well-integrated, seamless counterinsurgency effort on the part of all elements of the federal government,
assigning particular roles to the Departments of State and Defense, the
CIA, AID, and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA).33
Although the OIDP fulfilled the Army’s desire for a formal enunciation of national policy, the document had several weaknesses. First,
it was, in the words of one of its principal architects, a “somewhat
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
simplistic document,” whose broad prescriptions were inadequate to
meet what was in reality a highly complex world. Second, while the
OIDP had assigned roles and missions, it had not detailed how the
actions of the various agencies would be integrated into a cohesive
whole other than through the coordinative powers of the Special Group
(Counterinsurgency) in Washington and, at the country level, through
the ambassador. Since both entities were given only the power to monitor and coordinate, rather than direct and control, there was in fact very
little to ensure the necessary integration of effort. The Army would
complain for several years that the absence of a well-integrated system
for executing the national counterinsurgency program greatly impeded
its efforts, both doctrinally and operationally.34
Finally, the OIDP suffered from a third major weakness, one that
its authors recognized but for which they did not have an answer. For
if, as the doctrine asserted, insurgency was the product of social, economic, and political inequities that were not being addressed by indigenous authorities, what confidence could the United States have that it
would be able to persuade these very same people to adopt Americanproffered reforms? While the OIDP proudly showcased Ramon
Magsaysay as an example of what could be achieved when an able
leader listened to American advice, there was little guarantee that the
United States would always be so fortunate. Indeed, the OIDP conceded that U.S. officials would be confronted with indigenous elites
who benefited from the status quo and who would exhibit “deepseated emotional, cultural, and proprietary resistance to any change
that diminishes power and privilege, regardless of how unrealistic and
short-sighted this stubbornness may seem objectively.”35
Given America’s reluctance to intervene directly, the OIDP saw only
two options when confronted by a recalcitrant regime. Either the United
States could threaten to withhold aid until the indigenous government
implemented reforms, or it could employ covert means to change the
political landscape of the country in question, possibly resulting in the
removal of particularly obstinate leaders. Neither option was very palatable, and thus the old dilemma of leverage would continue to bedevil
any counterinsurgency action undertaken by the United States.36
Like the joint concept, the OIDP was of great importance to the
Army because it established the basic policy positions that Army doctrine would have to reflect. Nevertheless, it had very little effect on the
shape of Army doctrine, largely because the document echoed positions
that had already been adopted by both the Army and the Pentagon.
In fact, the National Security Council had relied heavily on the Joint
Chief’s joint concept when it had written the OIDP.37
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
While national authorities spent most of 1962 crafting overarching
policies, the Army did not remain idle. Due to both the newness of the
subject and its perceived importance, the Army adopted a two-pronged
approach in developing counterinsurgency doctrine. The first approach
involved integrating broad counterinsurgency principles into as many
manuals as possible, folding the material in whenever a manual came
up for routine review and revision. Perhaps the most important example
of this approach occurred in February 1962, when the Army published
a new edition of FM 100–5, Operations, that included new chapters
on situations short of war, guerrilla warfare, counterguerrilla warfare,
and airmobile operations. All told, Cold War– and counterinsurgencyrelated subjects accounted for about 20 percent of this widely read
manual. In actuality, the manual contained little that was new, as it
merely summarized the basic principles already established in FM
31–15 the year before. Still, the increased visibility that the manual
afforded counterinsurgency and contingency operations represented a
major milestone that helped solidify their places as important missions
within the Army.38
While the integration of counterinsurgency principles into existing manuals proceeded, the Army also advanced on a second track,
developing new tactics and techniques to help soldiers implement FM
31–15’s broad principles. Perhaps the best examples of this approach in
1962 were FM 33–5, Psychological Operations, and FM 41–10, Civil
Affairs Operations. Of the two, Psychological Operations, written at
Fort Bragg, was the more progressive. It revised the 1955 edition of
FM 33–5 by adding new chapters on the important role psychological
operations played in insurgencies and situations short of war. It was
also the first manual to employ such cutting edge terms as counterinsurgency and nation building. The manual impressed upon its readers
that “no tactical counterinsurgency program can be effective without
major nation building programs. The causes for unrest must be in the
process of reduction for the successful counterinsurgency operation.
This implies extensive political, economic, and social reform.”39
FM 41–10 (1962), prepared by the Civil Affairs School at Fort
Gordon, agreed with this philosophy. Although the bulk of this manual
was dedicated to conventional operations, it strongly endorsed civic
action, defined as “any function performed by military forces in
cooperation with civil authorities, agencies, or groups through the use
of military manpower and material resources for the socio-economic
well-being and improvement of the civil community with a goal of
building or reinforcing mutual respect and fellowship between the civil
and military communities.” Based on recent experience, FM 41–10
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
(1962) examined the organization and function of civic action advisory teams and related lessons regarding the implementation of a civic
action program. It stated that projects originated by the local population
were more likely to succeed than those imposed from above by wellmeaning, but often ignorant and ethnocentric advisers. The manual
concluded that a project must have a fairly short completion time, both
because military units moved frequently and because the government
needed to win public support in the present, rather than in the distant
future. Finally, FM 41–10 (1962) advised soldiers to coordinate all of
their civic action projects with civilian agencies to ensure that those
activities would complement, and not compete, with the efforts of other
government elements.40
While FMs 33–5 and 41–10 added depth to the Army’s understanding of its role in an insurgency, the Army pressed ahead with the
development of counterguerrilla tactics and techniques. This effort had
begun in December 1961, when the Army had directed the Command
and General Staff College to flesh out the principles established in FM
31–15 (1961). After completing an initial draft in early 1962, CGSC
handed the project over to the Infantry School. The effort came to fruition in February 1963 as FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations.41
Counterguerrilla Operations added detail to the multiphased and
multifaceted area control strategy called for in FM 31–15 (1961).
Reflecting an appreciation for counterinsurgency’s uniquely local and
decentralized nature, as well as the belief that deployments larger than
a division were unlikely, FM 31–16 established the brigade as the basic
operational and command element. The manual envisioned that a brigade would be assigned to control a geographical area. Upon arrival, it
would establish a main base camp and subsidiary installations, further
subdividing the region into battalion and company operating areas,
with each level of command retaining a mobile (preferably airmobile) reserve reaction force. Like FM 31–15 (1961), Counterguerrilla
Operations placed special emphasis on accumulating intelligence, for
“in counterguerrilla operations, the commander is even more deeply
dependent upon intelligence and counterintelligence than in conventional warfare situations.” Noting that, “the unit which conducts
counterguerrilla operations without sound intelligence wastes time,
materiel, and troop effort,” the manual urged commanders to tap every
conceivable resource to acquire a coherent picture of a region’s political, social, and military topography.42
Included among the seven pages the manual devoted to intelligence
matters were suggestions concerning methods and techniques appropriate for insurgency situations. The manual recommended maintaining
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
personality files on guerrilla leaders and asserted that friends and
family of known guerrillas were “valuable as sources of information,
as hostages, and as bait for traps that can be laid for guerrillas visiting
them.” Conversely, the manual recognized that insurgents usually had
excellent intelligence sources of their own, a fact that demanded that
military forces exercise the utmost secrecy if they were ever to have
a hope of catching the irregulars. To help even the odds, FM 31–16
recommended that commanders leak false information, manipulate
suspected enemy agents, and employ cover operations and deception
plans to outfox the enemy as to the Army’s true intentions.43
Having established itself in a region, the brigade’s next step was to
separate the irregulars from the population. Off the battlefield, the government would achieve this goal through police and security measures,
intelligence operations, civic actions, and propaganda. The manual
described each of these in turn, stressing the necessity of weaving them
together into a seamless whole with the help of Malayan-style civilmilitary pacification committees in each brigade and battalion sector.
Recognizing that the task of securing the population “should never be
deemphasized,” FM 31–16 called for the creation of large police and
village defense forces and the imposition of effective measures to control the behavior and resources of the civilian population.44
While never minimizing the importance of positive measures, FM
31–16 paralleled British manuals of the day by dwelling upon pacification’s more restrictive aspects, reminding its readers that “counterguerrilla operations must include appropriate action against the
civilian and underground support of the guerrilla force without which
it cannot operate.” The manual reviewed the usual list of control measures—curfews, travel restrictions, and the like—describing several
in more detail than had appeared in previous manuals. Throughout,
FM 31–16 tried to balance the desirability of winning popular support
with the less palatable requirements of military necessity. Following
American tradition, the manual advised commanders to apply a judicious mixture of moderation and fairness on the one hand, and “vigorous enforcement and stern punishment” on the other, warning that
“half-heartedness or any other sign of laxness will breed contempt and
Although Counterguerrilla Operations focused on the internal
aspects of insurgency, it conceded that past experience had shown
that insurrections rarely achieved their full potential without access
to external sanctuaries and sustenance. Consequently, the manual
included a short section on border control operations. The section was
of necessity vague since actual measures would depend on the military,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
diplomatic, and topographical features of the conflict. Nevertheless,
FM 31–16 prescribed a vigorous surveillance program involving
observation posts, intelligence agents, electronic listening and sensing devices, and ground, air, and waterborne patrols. Crop destruction
and defoliation measures were recommended for eliminating food and
cover in guerrilla base areas. The manual also endorsed the creation of
restricted zones, in which the Army would remove the entire population
so as to create a no-man’s land along the border, and buffer zones, in
which the military removed only the disloyal while permitting trusted
individuals to stay on to create a hostile environment for guerrilla infiltrators. The manual recognized the significant human and materiel cost
of such methods, and consequently it recommended that relocation and
resettlement schemes be employed only when absolutely necessary and
in close coordination with civil authorities.46
As civil, military, and police officials secured the country’s
resources, regular military units would provide the necessary cover,
keeping the enemy off-balance and away from populated areas through
a continuous harassment campaign. Because guerrillas were usually
difficult to locate, Counterguerrilla Operations stated that harassment
campaigns could proceed for months before they had an appreciable
effect in clearing the enemy out of a targeted area. The primary weapon
in this campaign was the patrol. Ranging in size from a squad to a
reinforced company, patrols would continuously scour their assigned
areas, searching villages, establishing ambushes, and launching raids.
Generally, these patrols would employ conventional small-unit tactics,
though the manual did add a new technique, the area ambush, based
on British counterguerrilla experience. Night marches, frequent relocations of patrol bases, and movements by circuitous or unexpected routes
were all advised to ensure security and secrecy. Aircraft would provide
crucial assistance by conducting surveillance, ferrying troops and supplies, and supporting airmobile hunter-killer teams, an idea which had
first appeared in the mid-1950s and was currently being employed in
Vietnam. Indeed, noting the difficulty conventional forces normally
experienced in trying to catch irregulars, FM 31–16 asserted that “the
imaginative, extensive, and sustained use of the airmobile forces offers
the most effective challenge available today to this mobility differential
of the enemy guerrilla force. It is imperative that, whenever possible,
the concept of counterguerrilla operations be based on the maximum
employment of this type of force.”47
While decentralized, small-unit harassment operations backed
by airmobile reaction forces constituted the bulk of the Army’s daily
operational routine, Counterguerrilla Operations advised that offensive
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
operations be undertaken whenever a sizable force or installation had
been located. Although linear tactics might be appropriate if the enemy
fielded large, conventional units and endeavored to hold ground, FM
31–16 believed the most effective counterguerrilla tactic was encirclement. Because of the difficulties posed by terrain and the guerrillas’
proclivity for avoiding combat, the manual repeated earlier warnings
that encirclements were difficult to execute. To be effective such
operations had to be carefully planned, flawlessly executed, and backed
by a considerably larger force than that of the enemy to prevent him
from escaping the trap. As a guide, FM 31–16 prescribed three of the
four Wehrmacht encirclement tactics initially introduced by the 1951
Volckmann manual: “tightening the noose,” “fragmenting the disc,”
and “hammer and anvil.”48
When conditions prohibited using encirclement, FM 31–16 offered
five other methods for conducting offensive operations. Two of these—
surprise attack and pursuit—had appeared in Volckmann’s manual.
However, FM 31–16 slightly modified Volckmann’s pursuit operation—which it subtitled a “sweep”—by adding airmobile encircling
forces that would attempt to block the enemy as he fell back in front of
the pursuing ground forces. The manual also provided additional information on a technique that had first appeared in FM 31–15 (1961), the
urban cordon and sweep. As FM 31–16 explained it, political considerations were the primary feature that differentiated urban counterguerrilla operations from their conventional counterparts. Included among
the factors to be considered were the desirability of minimizing civilian
casualties and property destruction, the utility of waging an aggressive
propaganda campaign to mollify the population and entice the irregulars to surrender, and the necessity of quickly retaking lost urban areas
to prevent the appearance of a guerrilla victory.49
Finally, the manual added two new maneuvers, both partly derived
from British doctrine. The first, the “rabbit hunt,” was a cordon-andsweep, encirclement tactic that the manual stated was “a very effective technique for finding and destroying elements of a guerrilla force
known or suspected to be in a relatively small area.” It involved nothing
more than establishing blocking forces around three sides of a designated area while a line of beaters advanced from the fourth, scouring
the area and driving the guerrillas into ambush teams deployed around
the perimeter. The second new technique, the fire flush, used troops to
surround an area approximately 1,000 meters square that was then subjected to concentrated air and artillery fire—fire so severe that it would
either destroy the enemy or drive him into the arms of the encircling
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
The appearance of the fire flush tactic in FM 31–16 marked a
subtle but important development in Army counterguerrilla doctrine.
Although the Army had occasionally employed similar tactics in
Korea, historically artillery had played a minor role in the Army’s
approach to counterguerrilla warfare. This had been true not only
before World War II, but thereafter as well, as Army counterguerrilla advisers repeatedly criticized America’s Chinese, Greek, Korean,
Filipino, and Vietnamese allies for employing artillery as a substitute
for mobile, aggressive infantry action. While recognizing the utility of
artillery, tanks, and tactical airpower under certain conditions, Army
doctrine writers had always doubted that heavy firepower could be
applied effectively against guerrillas, whose elusive nature and penchant for deep swamps, thick forests, and rugged mountains were well
known. Thus Army texts of the early 1960s had asserted that infantry
battalions would rarely receive fire support beyond their own organic
weapons and that when such support was provided, it would be limited
to “a section or a platoon and will seldom require units of more than
battery size.” To extend at least token support to dispersed patrols
and outposts, Army doctrine writers had even overcome traditional
prejudices against dispersing artillery and accepted the unorthodox
Franco-Vietnamese practice of distributing artillery in one- and twotube positions.51
Counterguerrilla Operations adhered to these themes. It pointed
out the many impediments to effectively employing artillery and limited the amount of artillery support a brigade could expect to a single
battalion of 105-mm. howitzers. Yet the manual also talked about artillery in more positive terms than the past, a change that seems to have
been based on British doctrine, from which the writers of FM 31–16
lifted not only the fire flush technique, but also the idea of using artillery fire to harass and interdict the movement of enemy irregulars.
From these beginnings, Army doctrine would move inextricably toward
a more expansive view of firepower, perhaps as a result of the growing
availability of helicopters to transport guns into remote areas, as well as
the escalating conflict in Vietnam, where enemy firepower increasingly
approximated that of government forces. Though never abandoning
its faith in the bayonet, by 1965 Army texts were conceding that “it is
often more economical in terms of manpower to maneuver the guerrilla
force into a killing area by fire, rather than by hand-to-hand combat. It
is easier to maneuver artillery fire across the battle areas than it is to
maneuver personnel.”52
A similar, though less dramatic shift in Army doctrine occurred
vis-a-vis the role of armor in an insurgency, as doctrine writers began
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
to assert more positive roles for armored and armored cavalry formations. Interestingly, however, the movement to embrace heavier forms
of weaponry did not extend to airpower. Perhaps based on the lessons
of the Indochina War, FM 31–15 (1961) had questioned the utility of
tactical aircraft on the basis of the guerrilla’s “tactics of clinging to his
enemy or of mingling with the populace.” FM 31–16 (1963) retained
this skepticism, noting that adverse terrain and weather, difficulties in
air-ground coordination, and the guerrillas’ habit of operating dispersed
and at night all reduced the effectiveness of airpower.53
Regardless of the weapons and tactics employed, Counterguerrilla
Operations pointed out that “counterguerrilla warfare is a contest of
imagination, ingenuity, and improvisation by the opposing commanders. Commanders must be ever alert to change or adapt their tactics,
techniques, and procedures to meet the specific situation at hand.
Once the routine operations of a counterguerrilla force becomes stereotyped, surprise (a major ingredient of success) has been lost.” The
manual enjoined commanders to be continuously on the offensive and
to focus their efforts on destroying the guerrillas rather than on capturing ground. It likewise understood that units would have to be tailored
to the mission and environment, deleting unneeded and burdensome
equipment, restructuring superfluous elements—like antitank units—to
more useful functions, and adding other resources, such as man-portable radios, helicopters, and additional intelligence, signal, fire control,
civil affairs, and psychological warfare personnel.54
Continuous, aggressive small-unit operations punctuated by larger
offensive strikes as part of a wider, coordinated politico-military–
police campaign were thus FM 31–16’s prescription for how the U.S.
Army would defeat contemporary Communist insurgencies. If this
sounded familiar, it was. Very little of it was new. In addition to following the lead charted by the most recent doctrinal works, like the
1960 ODCSOPS handbook and FM 31–15 (1961), Counterguerrilla
Operations had relied heavily on the Army’s premier counterguerrilla
work—FM 31–20 (1951). Not only had doctrine writers adopted many
of FM 31–20’s principles, but they had lifted significant portions,
sometimes virtually verbatim, from the original Volckmann manual.
In the process, they not only preserved concepts initially introduced
in 1951—like Wehrmacht encirclement tactics—but resurrected ideas
that had long since fallen out of Army manuals, like Volckmann’s
analytical division of an operational area into guerrilla-controlled,
Army-controlled, and disputed zones. Even FM 31–16’s description
of guerrilla warfare was drawn from the 1951 manual, a description
that, while still serviceable, had been based on a study of World War
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
II partisans, not Vietnamese irregulars. Thus three years after the inauguration of the great counterinsurgency drive, the Army’s response to
the threat posed by Maoist third world insurgencies remained firmly
rooted in the past.
Counterguerrilla Operations may well have represented a repackaging of old wine in a new bottle, but it was good wine, one that
embodied principles that had generally stood the test of time.
Nevertheless, the Army recognized the need to supplement and refine
it. Two important examples of this emerged at the end of 1963. The
first, the “Counterinsurgency Planning Guide,” was issued by the
Special Warfare School in October 1963 as a guidebook for soldiers
charged with planning and implementing counterinsurgency campaigns. The booklet was filled with practical tips, worksheets, and
checklists to help the practitioner apply current doctrinal concepts.
It was also a virtual primer on social engineering, blending modern
developmental theory with a host of suggestions on what U.S. soldiers
could do to bring prosperity and democracy to foreign lands. Finally,
the booklet introduced some modest refinements to doctrine, dividing
the pacification committees into two entities—civil-military advisory
committees that served as liaison bodies between the military and the
civilian community, and security coordination centers, which focused
more narrowly on the integration of military, police, and intelligence
matters. It also assigned a new label, clear and hold, to the area control
concept espoused by FM 31–16.55
The last doctrinal product of 1963 was FM 31–22, U.S. Army
Counterinsurgency Forces, published by the Special Warfare Agency
in November. While FM 31–16 (1963) had outlined what U.S. forces
would do when directly engaged in counterguerrilla warfare, FM 31–22
focused on the earlier stages of an insurgency, when American participation would be limited to providing advice and support. Consequently,
while the manual reiterated the broad tenets of national and Army
counterinsurgency doctrine, it was dedicated more narrowly to what the
Army in 1961 had termed counterinsurgency forces. Counterinsurgency
forces were those elements of the Army specifically designated to help
third world countries combat Communist subversion, primarily by providing advice and support, rather than direct action. FM 31–22 (1963)
divided such forces into three tiers according to the order in which they
were to be committed. Military assistance advisory group (MAAG)
personnel and mobile advisory teams drawn mainly from SAFs made
up the first tier. SAF backup brigades composed the second, while
any other individual, combat support, or combat service support units
drawn from the Army at large made up the third tier.
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FM 31–22 (1963) examined in depth the organization and function
of the Special Action Forces and the SAF backup brigades. Because of
its advisory focus, FM 31–22 also discussed the organization, operation, and training of indigenous paramilitary forces in greater detail
than had heretofore appeared in official manuals. The manual noted
that people who joined paramilitary forces did so at great risk to themselves and their families and that consequently the government had
a moral obligation to reward and protect them. The manual also suggested establishing village radio systems that could be used for both
security and administrative purposes.56
FM 31–22 (1963) assigned two major functions to indigenous
paramilitaries. First, paramilitaries protected villages—a function that
yielded immense political, morale, and intelligence benefits. Second,
and equally important, paramilitary forces performed static security
missions “in order that the national army may be relieved of these tasks
to concentrate on offensive operations.” This view not only reflected
the advice the Army had given insurgency-torn countries since 1945,
but mirrored British doctrine as well, which asserted that “the primary
role of the army is to seek out and destroy CT [Communist terrorists]
in the jungle and on its fringes. . . . The secondary role of the Army
is that of supporting the . . . police in the populated areas by helping
to enforce food denial measures, curfews, etc.” American doctrine
writers in the 1960s thoroughly agreed with this approach. Although
FM 31–16 acknowledged that military units would have to perform
police and population- and resources-control functions to one degree
or another, American texts repeatedly assigned primary responsibility
for such missions to indigenous forces in general and to police and
paramilitary formations in particular. Such a division of labor made
the best use of the indigenous forces’ local knowledge and linguistic skills; minimized the involvement of foreign troops in politically
sensitive, population-oriented operations; and freed the more heavily
armed regulars for the mission for which they were best suited—offensive combat.57
Throughout its pages, FM 31–22 dispensed additional observations with regard to implementing Army counterinsurgency doctrine.
It recommended maintaining high stock levels at all bases so that
sudden increases in supply activities at a particular base would not
tip off the enemy about upcoming operations. It cautioned that the
intermingling of guerrillas and civilians would restrict the application
of firepower, except in declared “free zones” where artillery could be
employed “indiscriminately.” It warned, however, that “the amount of
such fire must be well controlled to prevent wasting ammunition.”58
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
FM 31–22 also repeated injunctions to the effect that counterinsurgency was a “war for men’s minds” in which every soldier was a
“grass roots ambassador.” Still, while socioeconomic action programs
were vital to winning public support, the manual advised commanders
not to allow civic action programs to interfere with their units’ primary mission of engaging the enemy in combat. Finally, based on the
Army’s many advisory experiences over the past decade, FM 31–22
(1963) reviewed some of the problems that typically impeded advisory
missions, offering several pages of suggestions on how advisers might
overcome these difficulties before concluding with a series of appendixes outlining paramilitary training, village defense, civic action, and
resettlement programs.59
FM 31–22 was the last counterinsurgency manual published during
President Kennedy’s three-year administration. Ten days after its publication, Kennedy fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. During the first year
of his successor’s administration, the Army published only one major
counterinsurgency work—FM 100–20, Field Service Regulations,
Counterinsurgency. Prepared by the Army’s Institute for Advanced
Studies, FM 100–20 was intended to be the highest-level statement of
counterinsurgency doctrine in the family of Army manuals. The manual
described the current world situation in Rostowian terms, explaining
how communism endeavored to exploit the revolution of rising expectations for its own ends. It related U.S. national policy as found in the
OIDP and summarized the part each U.S. government agency was to
play in implementing this program before focusing on the Army’s particular role during each stage of a Maoist-style insurgency. In the process, it reiterated the fact that U.S. national policy generally restricted
American overseas involvements to providing advice and assistance to
avoid exposing the United States “unnecessarily to charges of intervention and colonialism.” The manual concluded by reviewing some
operational and planning factors for counterinsurgency actions.60
Much of the information contained in FM 100–20 had already
appeared in earlier texts. Nevertheless, the publication of FM 100–20
in April 1964 marked an important milestone in the development
of Army counterinsurgency literature, as the Army now had a fairly
complete family of counterinsurgency manuals. FM 100–20 (1964)
put the Army’s role in counterinsurgency in a national context and
provided information useful for high-level planners. FM 31–22 (1963)
explained the role of Army forces in more depth, particularly during
the preliminary stages of an insurrection when the Army’s role would
be confined to providing advisers, while FM 31–15 (1961) described
what the Army would do once the United States directly intervened in
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
an irregular conflict. Finally, FM 31–16 (1963) described in even more
detail how infantry brigades and battalions would go about the business
of fighting guerrillas.
The Development of Doctrine, 1964–1965
The publication of the Army’s capstone counterinsurgency manual
three years into the national counterinsurgency campaign reflected
some underlying problems in the Army’s doctrinal effort. Ideally, the
Army would have preferred to publish its highest-level manual first,
followed by an orderly progression of derivative manuals, each describing in greater detail exactly how the concepts contained in the preceding manuals were to be implemented. In practice, the Army had not
been able to adhere to this scheme. Definitive national-level doctrine,
in the form of the OIDP, had not been available until the fall of 1962,
and, although the Army had immediately drafted a manual incorporating that policy, cumbersome internal review procedures and the need
to coordinate the manuscript with outside agencies had delayed the
publication of FM 100–20 until after Kennedy’s death. Consequently,
the Army ended up publishing lower-level operational doctrine, like
FM 31–16, before higher-level manuals, like FM 100–20. Since the
service’s fundamental philosophy with regard to counterinsurgency
did not alter during this period, the ill effects of the delay were perhaps minimal. On the other hand, the language of counterinsurgency
was changing so rapidly during the 1960s due to intense military and
public interest in the subject that manuals published at different times
employed different, and somewhat conflicting, terms. The confusion
was exacerbated by the Army’s decision, taken in deference to the
importance assigned to counterinsurgency, to incorporate new ideas
into existing doctrine as soon as they were available rather than waiting
for the development of a complete doctrinal base.61
Meanwhile, the inclusion of counterinsurgency in branch-level,
how-to-do-it manuals had proceeded unevenly for a variety of reasons.
To begin with, few doctrine writers had the type of knowledge needed
to write detailed implementing-level doctrine for counterinsurgency.
Army efforts to rectify this situation were only marginally effective
until America’s growing involvement in Vietnam eventually generated a
surplus of such individuals. The fact that the branches introduced counterinsurgency material into their manuals at different times, depending
on when particular manuals were due for review, added to the doctrinal
unevenness. Turf battles between agencies over proponency for certain
aspects of doctrine, as well as philosophical differences as to the degree
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
to which counterinsurgency needed to be integrated into functional
manuals, further complicated matters. A few branches—including
Special Forces—argued that standard branch techniques were entirely
adequate to meet counterinsurgency needs and hence there was no need
to develop special tactics for counterguerrilla operations. Some doctrinal writers also objected to including counterguerrilla information
in lower-level manuals on the grounds that higher-level manuals had
already covered the subject adequately, citing regulations that discouraged redundancy. In fact, the Army’s counterinsurgency literature was
exceedingly redundant despite these regulations. This was not entirely
bad, given the president’s desire that the Army rapidly immerse itself
in what was for many an unfamiliar subject. The redundancy, however,
muddied doctrinal clarity and added to the confusion as to exactly what
each manual was supposed to achieve.62
Army Chief of Staff General Johnson was particularly dissatisfied
with the state of counterinsurgency doctrine and training in the Army.
He felt that while the Army had made significant progress on the
counterinsurgency front over the past few years, it had still not fully
come to grips with the issue. He was disturbed by uneven treatment of
the subject in Army manuals and wanted the technical and operational
aspects of waging a counterinsurgency campaign developed in more
detail. Johnson also thought that civil affairs doctrine had not yet made
the adjustment from conventional occupation duty to the more varied
demands of the contemporary world. Finally, he suspected that a belief
existed “in many parts of the government and within the army as well
that counterinsurgency and Special Forces are synonymous.” Until this
notion was put to rest once and for all, Johnson believed he would not
be successful at integrating counterinsurgency into the mainstream of
the Army.63
To correct these deficiencies, General Johnson launched two major
initiatives in the latter half of 1964. The first focused on convincing
the Army that counterinsurgency was not just for advisers and Special
Forces personnel anymore, but a mission affecting the whole Army. To
help sell this notion, Johnson coined a new term, stability operations,
that broadly encompassed the entire range of activities that the Army
might perform in support of national policy in the third world—constabulary operations, situations short of war, counterinsurgency, and
nation building. From his perspective, the common denominator to
all of these missions was that they required that the Army establish a
level of stability and security sufficient to allow political, social, and
economic measures—the true instruments of change—to work. Some
observers criticized the term, saying it implied a status quo policy, but
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Johnson denied such an inference, arguing that stability operations was
far preferable to the other terms of the day—counterinsurgency, which
he believed had negative connotations, and special warfare, which he
felt implied that such operations were not a normal military function.
After declaring in the fall of 1964 that stability operations represented
the “third principal mission” of the Army, coequal with general and
limited warfare, Johnson waged an aggressive campaign to make sure
that everyone in the Army understood the new paradigm and took it
Meanwhile, General Johnson launched the second prong of his
offensive by ordering Combat Developments Command to review the
entire counterinsurgency doctrinal program. The command responded
to Johnson’s request in August 1964 with a “Program for Analysis and
Development of U.S. Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Organization.”
The program proposed a two-track approach. On the one hand, CDC
would quickly redress some of Johnson’s most urgent concerns.
Meanwhile, it would proceed in a more systematic fashion to examine,
refine, and revise the entire corpus of counterinsurgency literature.65
The fast track part of the CDC program required that the special
warfare community publish a new handbook for advisory personnel
and revise existing psyops and Special Forces manuals by the end
of 1965. Although the psyops manual did not reach print until early
1966, Combat Developments Command did publish new versions of
FM 31–21, Special Forces Operations, and FM 31–20, Special Forces
Operational Techniques, in 1965. These manuals explained the techniques Special Forces personnel were to use in combating insurgencies
and reflected to a large degree current practices in Southeast Asia.
Of more importance to the Army as a whole, however, was the new
advisory text, FM 31–73, Advisor Handbook for Counterinsurgency,
released in April 1965.
FM 31–73 was the first manual published by the Army devoted
exclusively to advisory issues. Although intended for general use, it
was clearly written with an eye to Vietnam, where the United States
already had over 30,000 military personnel. In addition to discussing
advisory duty in general, the manual offered detailed coverage of the
conduct of a counterinsurgency campaign in a way that was useful
for advisers and operators alike. FM 31–73 endorsed civic action but
cautioned from experience that “rural traditions are resistant to change
and often will work against the project.” It discussed the practical
aspects of building defended hamlets, relocating populations, and conducting clear-and-hold operations, noting that such operations might
take several years to succeed. The handbook also warned advisers that
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
they would likely find that indigenous forces treated captured guerrillas much more harshly than would be tolerated in the U.S. Army.
It instructed advisers to avoid becoming involved in atrocities and to
encourage their counterparts to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Finally, the manual reminded readers that they should apply “the
minimum destruction concept in view of the overriding requirements
to minimize alienating the population. (Bringing artillery or air power
to bear on a village from which sniper fire was received may neutralize
guerrilla action but will alienate the civilian population as a result of
casualties among noncombatants.)”66
While Combat Developments Command proceeded to meet General
Johnson’s most urgent concerns, it initiated concurrently its broader
doctrinal review. This effort called for the accomplishment of twentyfour tasks in an orderly, multiphased process of data collection, analysis, and publication. The desired result was a new family of manuals
that covered the entire range of counterinsurgency issues, from national
policy to the most technical procedure, with minimum redundancy in
a clear, coherent, and linguistically consistent fashion. The command
also planned to use the revision process to reinforce Johnson’s campaign to integrate stability operations into the Army and to reorient the
officer corps “from the purely military aspects of warfare to a recognition that every military move must be weighed with regard to both its
political effects and military effects.”67
General Johnson insisted that the conceptual aspects of the program be completed by November 1965, although he recognized that
integrating the results of this review into Army literature would take
much longer. Of the twenty-four tasks, perhaps the most important was
task five, a study prepared by the CDC’s Special Warfare and Civil
Affairs Group in July 1965 titled “Concepts and General Doctrine for
Counterinsurgency.” Combat Developments Command intended this
study to be the conceptual mainspring for the development of all future
doctrine. What was most notable about the study, however, was how
little it differed from existing doctrine. Although the report acknowledged problems in application, it fully embraced the social engineer’s
creed, stating that America’s job was to change “the basic attitudes and
value scales of the people to conform to that needed by the new nation
that is being built to replace the former structure.” Such measures were
to go forward despite the fact that a majority of the population might
object to the American-inspired changes.68
The study also did not challenge the U.S. government’s basic strategy of relating American actions to the three phases of Maoist revolutionary warfare. Nation building still took precedence when insurgency
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
was in a latent or incipient stage (phase one). Once guerrilla warfare
had emerged (phase two), these efforts would share center stage with
police, intelligence, and population- and resources-control programs.
Military activities throughout these two phases remained of secondary
importance in the minds of Army doctrine writers, who insisted on
limiting the armed forces to performing clear-and-hold–type operations. But the study’s tone changed dramatically when it came to considering appropriate policies for a full-blown, phase three war. In the
opinion of the Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group, “in a phase
three insurgency, the survival of the government is predicated upon its
ability to successfully undertake combat operations. . . . The government must concentrate its resources to completely defeat the guerrilla
forces.” Under these circumstances, nation-building and reform efforts,
though never completely halted, were to take a backseat to more violent
The study’s view of phase three warfare, while consistent with earlier Army writings, represented one of the strongest assertions to date
that military considerations should take priority over political ones once
major warfare had broken out. It was not an opinion universally held,
as some soldiers believed that political and economic reforms should
never be subordinated to military action. It was, nevertheless, consistent with past experience, where time after time counterinsurgents had
found that political and economic programs could not advance without
adequate security.
While the CDC study asserted the importance of military action
during a full-scale war, it was less confident as to what that action
should be. In the authors’ opinion, the Army faced a difficult situation
once an insurgency had reached its final stage.
If the guerrilla forces organize for conventional military operations, the problem for the government forces is resolved to that of defeating the insurgents,
using standard military operations. . . . On the other hand, if the guerrillas
remain dispersed to avoid battle but concentrate sufficiently to cause severe
government attrition, the government faces a dilemma. Concentration of government forces permits the spread of insurgent control to those areas where
government strength has been reduced. Conversely, failure to concentrate
invites piecemeal destruction.70
The Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group did not have a pat
solution for such an eventuality. The group recommended that the
government first secure those areas of the country that it needed for its
own survival, such as major population centers and regions containing
important resources, while applying vigorous population, resources,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
and border controls to deny the enemy sustenance. Meanwhile, the military would maintain pressure on the insurgents by inflicting casualties
and destroying their supplies and equipment. “The resulting insurgent
attrition combined with the requirement for the guerrillas to react to
government operations contributes to the loss of insurgent operational
initiative. . . . Where the government has gained the initiative, combat operations to destroy guerrilla units and to harass their safe areas
should be extended.”71 Large units, employing massed artillery fires
when appropriate, would conduct major operations, striking at guerrilla
bases and gradually extending the government’s zone of control, while
small units kept up a constant pressure around populated areas through
patrols and raids. Such was the advice of CDC’s counterinsurgency
experts for combating a phase three insurgency.
The Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group’s three-phase approach
to insurgency betrayed several weaknesses. From the beginning, national policy and Army doctrine alike had tended to treat the differences
between the phases in a Maoist revolutionary war as ones of scale and
intensity, not method. Consequently, the United States had adopted the
view that the only response to an escalating insurgency was to do more
of the same—more reforms, more police controls, more combat operations—seemingly oblivious to the implication that if such measures
had failed to arrest an insurgency in its earlier stages, they would be
unlikely to do so after it had escalated to mobile warfare. Army doctrine
also reflected national policy in depicting the enemy primarily in terms
of small guerrilla bands. Its proposed countermeasures—decentralized
area operations conducted by battalions and brigades operating on an
independent or semi-independent basis—seemed to presuppose such
a scenario. Army manuals never discussed division-level operations
in an insurgency environment, adhering stubbornly to the independent
brigade-battalion-company model. Some soldiers dismissed the whole
question with an intellectual slight of hand, maintaining that any conflict in which the United States committed troops in division strength
was, by definition, outside the bounds of counterinsurgency doctrine.
Nonetheless, when forced to confront the question as to what was to be
done once an enemy fielded large, conventional-type units, the Army’s
general response had been that conventional offensive and defensive
tactics would suffice. In fact, as late as January 1965, CDC’s Special
Warfare Agency had asserted that “major combined arms operations per
se are not visualized for counterinsurgency,” and, in the unlikely event
that they were required, “the doctrine will be essentially that of general
war or limited war.” Although a few soldiers warned that such assumptions were inaccurate, the Army gave little thought to the possibility that
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the enemy’s large conventional formations might be able to continue to
operate on a semiguerrilla basis, coalescing to strike, then dispersing to
avoid retaliation, all the while maintaining the relatively fluid aspects
characteristic of lower-level insurgencies.72
The Army’s failure to consider the problems associated with conventional warfare in phase three represented one of the most significant
flaws in its counterinsurgency doctrine. The CDC’s failure to rectify the
omission was not, however, the only area where the doctrinal review
effort came up short. For example, the CDC’s effort to identify techniques that would help the Army motivate indigenous populations to
support a counterinsurgency campaign hit a snag when the organization tasked with preparing the study, the Special Operations Research
Office, conceded that social science was still an “infant science” that
had not yet progressed to the stage where it could provide the type
of concrete solutions so desperately needed by doctrine writers. This
admission should not have come as a surprise. As early as 1962, the
academician Lucian W. Pye had warned that “the disturbing truth” was
that the social science community had yet to develop a practical “doctrine about how to go about nation building.”73 That such a doctrine still
did not exist three years later illustrated the difficulties doctrine writers
would have in trying to produce more definitive guidance pertaining to
counterinsurgency’s complex social aspects.
General Johnson did not receive any better news from Deputy
Chief of Staff for Military Operations General Palmer, who at Johnson’s
request prepared a paper on the nature of conflict in the “lower spectrum
of war” in early 1965. After examining thirty-seven past insurgencies,
Palmer concluded that Army doctrine was sound in its broad outlines
but that any attempt to produce a definitive counterinsurgency doctrine
would be like looking for a “Will-O-The-Wisp,” since every insurgency
was a unique event, the product of distinct political, social, topographical, and military factors. “This particularization,” Palmer concluded,
“calls into serious question the validity of current U.S. Army attempts
to devise a universal doctrine for counterinsurgency comparable to our
conventional war doctrine.”74
Palmer’s words of caution notwithstanding, Johnson still pressed
ahead with the quest for a more perfect doctrine, even if it had to be
acknowledged that no doctrine could ever fully address counterinsurgent warfare. By the end of 1965 Combat Developments Command
had accomplished some important preliminary work toward revising
the Army’s counterinsurgency literature. Yet much remained to be done,
and the revision program would take several more years before it was
fully in place.
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Disseminating Doctrine: The Education System
All of the Army’s efforts at writing and revising doctrine would go
for naught unless that doctrine was inculcated into the Army at large.
This was no small task. Introducing new ideas is always time consuming. Counterinsurgency’s heavy emphasis on political affairs posed special difficulties for an institution that, while it had long performed civil
functions, had never felt comfortable doing so. The fact that soldiers
had to master counterinsurgency while still maintaining proficiency in
nuclear and conventional warfare added to the complexity of the task.
Kennedy’s determination that soldiers absorb the new style of warfare as quickly as possible, and the Army’s reluctance to increase the
amount of time its already busy soldiers spent in classrooms, merely
exacerbated the problem.75
Because national policy placed the primary burden for countering
third world revolutions on indigenous armies and their U.S. advisers,
the military initially concentrated its educational initiatives on these
two groups. The Army’s first educational effort—the counterguerrilla
operations and tactics course that opened at Fort Bragg in January
1961—was just such a course, as a significant portion of its student
body consisted of foreign officers and Americans slated for overseas
advisory duty. This class, which the Special Warfare School eventually
expanded from six to ten weeks and renamed the counterinsurgency
operations course, offered the most comprehensive treatment of counterinsurgency in the military education system. It covered everything
from national policy to tactics and techniques. The course’s central
theme was that an insurgency could not be defeated unless significant
progress was made in raising living standards, improving production,
and achieving social and political equality. By 1962 the Army had
established similar courses in Okinawa, Germany, and the Panama
Canal Zone. Like the parent course at Fort Bragg, these courses primarily taught foreign officers, although the commander of U.S. Army,
Europe, cycled enough men through the school in Germany to post
at least one graduate in each brigade and battalion headquarters in
Meanwhile, the Army introduced a number of other advisoryoriented initiatives. The service assisted the Pentagon’s Military
Assistance Institute in integrating counterinsurgency into its advisory
training program and sent some of the Army’s most senior adviserdesignates to the Department of State’s counterinsurgency-oriented
National Interdepartmental Seminar. General Decker also initiated
a Senior Officer Orientation Tour program, in which selected senior
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Classroom instruction as part of the military assistance
training adviser course
officers spent up to six weeks in a troubled third world country to
experience insurgency-related problems. Over two hundred senior
officers participated in this program during its two-year existence.
Last but not least, the Army developed a number of adviser-preparation courses. The most notable of these was the military assistance
training adviser (MATA) course at Fort Bragg, established in early
1962. The four-week (later six-week) course was oriented exclusively
to preparing advisers for the burgeoning conflict in Vietnam. Only
a portion of all personnel going to Vietnam took the course, which
experienced some growing pains. Nevertheless, the Special Warfare
School continuously adjusted and improved the class based on feedback from Vietnam. The course reviewed doctrine, related Vietnamspecific tactics, and provided an orientation to Vietnamese language
and culture.77
Based on the premise that a purely military solution was not possible in Vietnam, the original MATA course devoted roughly 25 percent
of its time to civic action. In 1963 the Civil Affairs School reinforced
this effort by initiating a six-week civic action course that taught
nation-building theory to civil affairs personnel slated for duty overseas. Other schools eventually added adviser-oriented courses as well,
so that by the end of 1965 perhaps 7,000 officers had graduated from
the Army’s most intensive counterinsurgency-related courses. While
this number represented just a small fraction of the officer corps, it
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
was an important one, as these individuals composed the front line of
America’s overseas counterinsurgency effort.78
The Army did not, however, limit its educational efforts to future
advisers. From the beginning of the national counterinsurgency campaign, the Army committed itself to the goal of indoctrinating the
entire officer corps in counterinsurgency. At the president’s urging, the
Pentagon established counterinsurgency libraries at many installations
and published bibliographies and reading lists containing hundreds
of counterinsurgency-related titles.79 The Army’s professional journals helped spread the counterinsurgency gospel as well, publishing
hundreds of articles between 1961 and 1965. Some of these articles
presented distillations of the latest doctrine, while others offered critiques, reviewed historical examples, or related tactics and techniques.
A significant percentage of these articles emphasized the importance
of good troop behavior and civic actions in the battle for the hearts and
minds of the afflicted population.80 The Army also integrated counterinsurgency studies into a number of short familiarization and refresher
courses, the most notable of which was the senior officer counterinsurgency and special warfare course at Fort Bragg, a one-week intensive
course that by 1964 was graduating about 450 colonels and generals a
Meanwhile, in early 1961 Continental Army Command ordered
that counterinsurgency be introduced into every level of officer education. Initially, it left the question of how much time schools should
devote to counterinsurgency up to the individual school commandants.
One consequence of this approach was that coverage varied widely
from school to school in 1961, ranging from twelve hours given to
Infantry officers to a mere two hours presented to Special Forces
officers.82 In September Continental Army Command attempted to
impose some uniformity by mandating minimum hours of instruction
for each level of schooling in the Army. However, rather than creating an entirely new block of instruction separate from the rest of a
school’s curriculum, CONARC directed that most counterinsurgency
instruction be integrated into existing courses. To help meet these new
requirements, the Special Warfare School drafted a series of common
subject courses that service schools were to use as the basis of their
instruction. These courses focused heavily on the political, social, and
psychological aspects of counterinsurgency theory. For example, the
three-hour common course for newly commissioned second lieutenants
devoted no more than ninety seconds to tactics, while the twelve-hour
branch career course contained just four hours on military tactics and
techniques, still only a third of the total program. Using these lectures
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
as a starting point, the schools were then free to add additional hours of
instruction tailored more directly to their particular missions, a method
that still allowed a great deal of flexibility. By January 1962 the average branch orientation course (given to all newly commissioned second
lieutenants) devoted 6.2 hours to “pure” counterinsurgency and 73.4
hours to “related” subjects, while career courses (for first lieutenants
and captains) contained, on average, 35 pure and 182 related hours.83
The significance of these statistics is difficult to judge, as school
officials, eager to demonstrate their responsiveness to the president,
used somewhat questionable criteria as to what constituted counterinsurgency and counterinsurgency-related course hours. The absence
of any formal definition of these terms, together with CONARC’s
preference that most counterinsurgency instruction be integrated into
preexisting courses, lent further confusion. Skeptics rightly scoffed
at the Infantry School’s claim that by January 1962 the school was
devoting over 400 hours to counterinsurgency-related subjects. On
the other hand, there was a certain legitimacy to the view that many
conventional subjects were relevant to performing counterinsurgency
missions, especially if instructors integrated appropriate counterinsurgency observations into their standard lectures. For example, the
Commandant of Cadets at West Point in 1962, Brig. Gen. Richard G.
Stilwell, claimed that an English course titled “Evolution of American
Ideals as Reflected in American Literature from 1607 to the Present”
was counterinsurgency-related because it helped “the cadet in realizing and understanding the American way of life. Such background
training is considered valuable in working with peoples of underdeveloped nations.” He similarly argued that the activities of the judo and
debate clubs bore “some relationship” to counterinsurgency. While his
reasoning was not without merit, statements such as these illustrate
the difficulty one experiences in trying to quantify counterinsurgency
education in the Army.84
What is incontrovertible is that Army leaders were dissatisfied with
the way the schools were handling counterinsurgency, as evidenced
by a number of internal reports generated in 1961 and 1962. Nor was
President Kennedy satisfied, and in March 1962 he directed that all
government agencies involved in counterinsurgency, including the
Departments of State and Defense, USIA, AID, and the CIA, establish
counterinsurgency education programs. According to National Security
Action Memorandum 131, all civil and military officers in the aforementioned agencies were to receive a basic orientation in the history
and nature of insurgency, to include Communist tactics and America’s
counterstrategy. In addition, junior- and mid-grade officers were to
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
study counterinsurgency tactics and techniques applicable to their
branches and departments, while staff-level officers received instruction in planning and conducting counterinsurgency campaigns. Finally,
the memorandum required that all mid- and senior-grade officers slated
for overseas service in developing countries receive both general counterinsurgency instruction as well as more specific information about
the country to which they were about to be posted.85
Spurred by this directive, Continental Army Command redoubled
its efforts to improve the quantity and quality of instruction given in its
schools, directing that all officer orientation and career courses contain
between twenty and twenty-seven hours of pure counterinsurgency
instruction. This was rapidly achieved, and between 1963 and 1965 the
average branch officer career course included about twenty-eight hours
of pure counterinsurgency instruction, of which about eight hours were
devoted to theory and twenty to branch-oriented tactics and techniques.
All schools also continued to report many additional hours of counterinsurgency-related instruction.86
Exposure to counterinsurgency began at the very beginning of
officer education, in ROTC and at the United States Military Academy
at West Point, New York. Counterinsurgency proved quite popular on
college campuses, where students, inspired by Kennedy’s somewhat
romantic portrayal of guerrilla warfare, began forming volunteer counterguerrilla units. CONARC quickly tapped into the fad, and by 1965
nearly half of all college ROTC programs sported counterguerrilla units
that practiced patrol, survival, and fieldcraft skills. In the meantime, the
command ensured that all ROTC students were exposed to the idea that
“subversive insurgency is a battle for the hearts and minds of men” in
a six-hour required course.87
Cadets at the Military Academy received an even heavier dose of
counterinsurgency theory. The works of Communist theoreticians Mao
Tse-tung, Vo Nguyen Giap, and Truong Chinh were required reading at
the academy beginning in 1962, as were histories of past revolutionary
struggles in Malaya, Indochina, and the Philippines. Also mandatory
for cadets were lectures on the current war in Vietnam. By 1963 West
Point’s curriculum included sixty-six mandatory lessons in counterinsurgency plus twenty-six hours of Ranger-style counterguerrilla training in summer camp. Seniors were also required to write a paper chosen from a list of twenty-nine topics developed by the academy, eight
of which (28 percent) were counterinsurgency related. The academy
further identified another 136 required lessons and 45 hours of field
training as being counterinsurgency related, while the school offered
an additional 226 counterinsurgency lessons in such elective courses
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
as “National Security Problems,” “Military History of Insurgency and
Counterinsurgency,” and “Revolutionary Warfare.”88
Upon commissioning, the Army sent its young second lieutenants
to branch schools for roughly nine weeks of orientation training in their
new duties. They then went to operational assignments, only to return
a few years later as first lieutenants and captains to receive six to nine
months of branch career instruction. While the amount of counterinsurgency instruction offered in Army branch schools varied widely,
one school that played a pivotal role in disseminating doctrine was
the Infantry School, both because of the large number of officers who
passed through its doors each year and because of the central role the
Army assigned to Infantry units in counterguerrilla doctrine.
Like all of its sister institutions, the Infantry School found the
task of integrating a complex subject like counterinsurgency into an
already cramped curriculum to be no easy matter. School instructor
Maj. Harold D. Yow explained the school’s dilemma and the rationale
behind its ultimate solution.
We cannot give a complete course in geography, political science, applied
psychology, comparative religions, ethnology, aesthetics, economics, and the
tactics and techniques of counterguerrilla operations—it just cannot be done.
Yet knowledge in all of these areas is vital to success in counterinsurgency
operations and as you know we have a multitude of prophets about us, each
setting forth, what in his own best judgment, is the one facet of these operations to be most emphasized. In all probability they are all right to a degree,
for above all else, counterinsurgency operations must have a “total” approach,
prepared to attack every deficiency which can present obstacles in a country to
the rapid development of human capabilities, with a concomitant development
of an environment of individual freedom necessary for their exercise. . . . We
realize that the infantryman must have an acute awareness of the totality of the
successful counterinsurgency formula. He must be aware of the importance of
psychological operations, economics, politics, etc.—in fact, at the individual
level he must become directly involved in many of these activities within his
own means—in the program of activities which are called “military civic
actions.” But, first, last, and foremost, the business of the infantry officer in
counterinsurgency operations is most properly the beating of the overt armed
guerrilla force, whether by an American unit he is leading, or by an indigenous
unit he is advising.89
Guided by this philosophy, the Infantry School proceeded to integrate counterinsurgency instruction into its curriculum. At the start
of the Kennedy administration the orientation course for newly commissioned infantry lieutenants included a mere two hours of counterinsurgency instruction, while the longer branch career course offered
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
twelve hours. This was clearly insufficient. In fact, only 32 percent
of the students expressed satisfaction with the school’s treatment of
counterguerrilla warfare, while only 25 percent believed they had
sufficient knowledge to train a unit effectively for antiguerrilla operations. From these meager beginnings the school’s coverage of counterinsurgency matters expanded rapidly, so that by 1965 the orientation
course included 29 hours of pure and 195 hours of integrated counterinsurgency instruction. The career course was even more impressive,
devoting about sixty-seven hours to pure counterinsurgency instruction by 1965.90
Throughout the 1960s, Infantry School curricular materials stressed
the idea that soldiers who blindly adhered to conventional methods,
without taking into account a conflict’s unique political, military, and
topographical facets, were bound to fail. To outfox the guerrilla, the
school advocated that soldiers employ ruses and deceptions, operate
at night and in inclement weather, and leave ambush parties behind to
catch unsuspecting enemies as they investigated abandoned positions.
It also recommended using small, seemingly vulnerable units as bait
to tempt the irregulars into attacking, thereby exposing themselves to
a powerful riposte by reaction forces. In fact, the school stressed the
importance of maintaining ready reaction forces at all levels, for “this
is the crux of our tactical doctrine: use minimum forces to find the
guerrilla and maintain maximum forces, preferably airborne or airmobile, in an advanced state of readiness to react to any located guerrilla
Emulating principles that the old Indian fighting Army would have
well understood, Army schools preached continuous, aggressive action,
for in the words of one text, “if the guerrilla is kept running, fighting
and hiding long enough, attrition from casualties, desertions and the
loss of contact with the civilian population can cause the guerrilla band
to break up to a point where they could be effectively controlled by
police.” Reflecting the small-unit focus of Army doctrine, the Infantry
School’s career course spent only four hours considering division and
larger operations, compared to forty-one hours on brigade, battalion,
and company operations. Clear-and-hold–type pacification operations were the infantry battalion’s bread and butter, for according to
the school, “no large coordinated action in the conventional sense will
take place . . . until there is a requirement for offensive action against a
located guerrilla force. The majority of the day-by-day activity . . . will
be small-unit action to locate guerrilla forces, secure the population,
installations, and lines of communication, train and assist the indigenous paramilitary forces, and conduct military civic action.”92
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Notwithstanding the requirement that the Infantry School produce
combat leaders, the school in no way ignored counterinsurgency’s
many political facets. “The important thing,” it reminded its pupils,
“is to realize that from the very start you are fighting an ideology.
And, since shooting guerrillas is a very ineffective way to destroy an
ideology . . . actions on the counterinsurgency battlefield at all levels
of command must be a total military-civilian effort to both destroy the
armed guerrilla of an insurgency and attack this ideological root of the
resistance.” In fact, the school devoted approximately twelve hours of
instruction to civic action, during which instructors explained to their
students that “the guerrilla force is only a symptom of the over-all
problem in the area which caused the resistance movement to arise in
the first place. Prior to, during, and following the successful completion of counterguerrilla operations, a positive program of civil assistance to the area must be conducted to eliminate the original cause of
the resistance movement.”93
Curricular materials also reviewed counterinfrastructure and policestyle population- and resource-control measures. While preaching an
overall policy of enlightened moderation, the school conceded that
“if it cannot be determined which portion of the civilian population
is actively supporting the irregular force, harsh measures may have to
be used with the entire population until such a determination can be
made.” While the Army clearly discouraged severity, such statements
were not unusual, and other schools flirted with equally distasteful
practices, including the Special Warfare School, which advised its
students that the “children of known guerrillas should be separated
from their parents to prevent further subversion and act as a deterrent to association with the guerrillas.” The destruction of crops and
foodstuffs, the creation of forbidden zones “where anyone in the area
will be shot on sight,” and the resettlement of populations were also to
be included in the counterinsurgent’s arsenal, although Army schools
cautioned that such actions were measures of last resort and had to
be implemented with care lest they cause undue hardship and fan the
flames of resistance.94
While most instruction given at Fort Benning was generic in nature,
neither it nor its sister institutions could ignore the growing conflagration in Vietnam. The Infantry School began presenting information
about Vietnam in 1962, as the Kennedy administration dramatically
increased America’s presence there. The school related information
based on reports from the field and occasionally employed Vietnam
scenarios in its tests and exercises. In 1963 the school modified its
traditional small arms instruction, which had focused on long-range
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
marksmanship, to include “quick fire” techniques designed to allow
soldiers to respond rapidly and effectively to the type of close-in, surprise targets often encountered in jungle ambushes. The Infantry School
also introduced in 1963 a voluntary forty-hour course on Vietnam for
students who were slated to go there upon graduation. A mixture of U.S.
soldiers who had recently returned from Vietnam and South Vietnamese
who were currently students at the school taught the class. The following year the assistant commandant, Brig. Gen. John Norton, initiated
a “Win in Vietnam” program. He formed committees that considered
various aspects of the war and recommended doctrinal, training, and
organizational improvements. The school reviewed the curriculum to
ensure that it was as effective as possible in preparing officers for duty
in Vietnam. The Infantry School also launched a variety of initiatives
that included inviting Vietnam veterans as guest speakers, publishing
articles, assembling special reading materials, and organizing displays
and demonstrations. As the United States moved toward intervention,
the school redoubled its efforts. By 1965 it was operating two mock
South Vietnamese villages, complete with female inhabitants drawn
from the Women’s Army Corps, who were used to teach search and
seizure techniques.95
Students who passed through the Infantry or other branch-level
schools in the early 1960s would have found much of their course
material repeated at the Command and General Staff College. This
represented a deliberate policy, as the college was well aware that many
of its students might have attended branch schools prior to the introduction of counterinsurgency into those curriculums. To ensure a common
base of understanding, the school reviewed the entire sweep of counterinsurgency doctrine, from national policy and nation-building theory
to tactics. The college naturally focused, however, on organizational,
operational, and planning issues in accordance with its overall mission
of producing mid-level commanders and staff officers.
Like all Army schools, the college steadily increased the amount of
time devoted to counterinsurgency issues throughout the early 1960s.
By 1964 the Command and General Staff College provided 42 hours of
direct counterinsurgency instruction, with another 171 hours of related
material scattered throughout the 38-week course. Students studied
case histories from Greece, Algeria, Malaya, and the Philippines, with
about 18 percent of the student body writing theses on counterinsurgency-related subjects. As part of the training, the college put students
to work drafting hypothetical counterinsurgency plans, advisory procedures, and intervention deployments for a variety of countries, real and
imagined, all in accordance with current national policies and doctrines.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Although school exercises occasionally depicted division-size encirclement operations, for the most part the school’s curriculum emphasized
the type of brigade, battalion, and small-unit area control techniques
that lay at the heart of U.S. doctrine. Civic and psychological actions
also featured prominently in school exercises, as did questions relating
to the formation of paramilitary defense organizations, the imposition
of population and resource controls, and, when necessary, the resettlement of populations.96
Those officers who were fortunate enough to be selected to attend
the Army’s highest educational institution, the Army War College,
concentrated their studies on such subjects as national policy, strategy,
and interagency coordination. The school introduced irregular warfare
in 1961 when the “Concepts of Future Land Warfare” course dedicated
twelve of its sixteen study committees to counterinsurgency questions.
The following year coverage of low intensity conflict grew to about 12
percent of the curriculum, with about 10 percent of the students writing
counterinsurgency theses. In 1962 the college also hosted two senior
officer counterinsurgency courses, each of three weeks’ duration.
Although these courses were designed to immerse a select group of
nonstudent officers in counterinsurgency issues, the college permitted
the general student body to attend a number of the lectures as well.97
In 1963 the college introduced a 3 ½-week course on the developing
world. The course focused on the problems of modernization, the nature
and causes of insurgency, and the U.S. response. By 1965 the college
had expanded this course to five weeks. In addition, the school required
that all students write papers on some aspect of low intensity warfare.
Meanwhile the college kept abreast of the latest developments by holding special seminars and panel discussions on Vietnam. Thus by 1965 the
Army’s school system had assembled a creditable, though by no means
flawless, program of instruction that sought to ensure that all officers,
from cadets to generals, were exposed to counterinsurgency doctrine.98
Disseminating Doctrine: The Training System
While the Army transmitted counterinsurgency theory to its officers
through lectures and readings, training provided the best means to test
students’ understanding, reinforce doctrinal precepts, and refine tactics
and techniques. It was also the Army’s primary means of acquainting
rank-and-file soldiers with the counterguerrilla mission.
At the outset of the Kennedy administration Army regulations
required that every recruit receive four hours of antiguerrilla instruction as part of basic combat training, with an additional eight hours for
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
rifle companies. Army leaders evinced little enthusiasm for imposing
additional hours of mandatory counterguerrilla training at the expense
of conventional combat capability. They also considered that most of
the conventional skills taught to individuals and small units were fully
applicable to counterguerrilla warfare. True, tactics might have to be
modified to meet local conditions, and soldiers would undoubtedly
have to demonstrate a higher degree of aptitude in certain individual
skills, but the Army believed that it could accommodate these requirements with only minor changes to conventional training programs.
Given the fact that military training schedules were already heavily burdened to meet the diverse requirements of nuclear, chemical, airmobile,
and conventional warfare, the Army initially decided against imposing
a separate counterinsurgency training program. Rather, as with officer
education, it opted to integrate counterguerrilla instruction into the
normal training regimen.99
The Continental Army Command officially affirmed this policy in
May 1961, when it issued its first training directive of the Kennedy era.
The directive encouraged training officers to integrate counterinsurgency into routine training, asserting that this could easily be done as
918 of the 1,443 hours that made up the Army’s core training programs
concerned subjects that had some counterinsurgency application. It
also recommended that rifle companies incorporate counterguerrilla
situations into exercises and that major unit commanders designate
portions of their commands for more intensive irregular warfare training. But beyond this it did not go, specifying neither the quantity nor
content of such training.100
By focusing on the training of individuals and small groups of
specialists rather than units, the May 1961 directive clearly reflected
the Army’s belief that the United States intended to follow an advisory,
rather than interventionist, approach to the counterinsurgency problem.
Unfortunately, the individual training approach, when coupled with
the Army’s initial categorization of counterinsurgency as a subset of
special warfare, created an impression among many soldiers that counterinsurgency was really only something that Special Forces had to be
concerned with. This, of course, was not the true position of either the
administration or the Army. To drive home this point, CONARC issued
a new training directive in September 1961 that clearly stated that the
“task of improving the capability of the Army to cope with counterinsurgency/counterguerrilla warfare now involves the entire army and not
special forces alone. All combat forces must develop a broad base of
knowledge. . . . Counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla operations are
the entire army’s business and all elements must become familiar with
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
their respective roles and develop the required proficiency in this type
of warfare.” The directive mandated that all Army personnel receive
training in the nature, causes, prevention, and elimination of third
world insurgency, to include the employment of intelligence, medical,
civil affairs, and psychological assets. Individuals or units assigned to
counterinsurgency missions were to receive specialized training beyond
this, including appropriate language and cultural skills. The September
regulations also directed that certain divisions, most notably those in
the Strategic Army Corps, provide intensive counterguerrilla training
to at least some of their component units. Meanwhile, CONARC began
revising many of its Army training programs (ATPs) and Army training
tests (ATTs) to include suggestions as to how counterinsurgency subjects might be integrated into conventional training regimens.101
Even these measures fell short. A survey of officers enrolled in
the infantry officer career course at Fort Benning in 1961 found that
while 47 percent of them had conducted counterguerrilla training in
their units prior to coming to the school, only 22 percent believed that
training had been adequate. A subsequent study in January 1962 led by
Lt. Gen. Hamilton H. Howze concurred in this assessment and advised
that all eight Regular Army divisions based in the continental United
States be given counterguerrilla training. Continental Army Command
responded to these criticisms in March 1962 by revising the counterguerrilla training directive yet again.102
The new directive made a distinction between “counterinsurgency” and “counterguerrilla” training. Counterinsurgency training included the whole range of insurgency-related issues, from the
nature of Maoist insurgency and the revolution of rising expectations
to America’s national strategy, nation building, and Army roles and
missions. Counterguerrilla training focused more narrowly on the
actions military units would take when operating against irregular
forces. According to the directive, all soldiers were to be trained for
counterguerrilla warfare, and all soldiers were to receive familiarization training in counterinsurgency. However, only designated “counterinsurgency forces”—primarily Special Forces and other elements
assigned to what would eventually become the SAFs and SAF backup
brigades—were to receive intensive training in both counterinsurgency
and counterguerrilla warfare, to include an annual six-week training
cycle for the backup brigades.
The March 1962 directive reiterated CONARC’s policy that commanders integrate counterguerrilla subjects into all phases of training
to the maximum extent possible, including training tests, exercises,
and maneuvers. To assist in this task, the directive enumerated subjects
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
that lent themselves to counterguerrilla training. It also required that
all active duty infantry, armor, combat engineer, military police, and
cannon artillery units conduct two three-day counterguerrilla exercises
every year. Administrative and technical units were required to devote
ninety-two hours a year to counterguerrilla training and to partake in
semiannual counterguerrilla field exercises. The regulation specifically
directed that civil affairs and civic action, psychological operations,
and intelligence issues be integrated into all phases of counterguerrilla
training. Continental Army Command further ordered that training at
all levels focus on the formation and operation of small, mobile task
forces, from squad to battle group, capable of undertaking independent
or semi-independent action. Patrol, reaction, police, and clear-andhold–type activities, rather than large-scale operations, were to be the
order of the day.103
This directive represented a significant step forward over the first
regulation issued less than a year earlier. Nevertheless, the Army’s
adherence to a strategy of integrated instruction and decentralized execution created a situation in which the amount and quality of instruction inevitably varied from unit to unit. Moreover, although CONARC
encouraged commanders to modify standard Army training tests for
use in counterguerrilla training, it never issued an Army-wide test for
counterguerrilla operations. Since military trainers, like most educators
operating under a regime of standardized exams, tended to focus their
efforts on preparing their charges for what was on the tests, the lack
of an official test for counterguerrilla warfare undermined the Army’s
efforts to persuade commanders to devote precious training time to the
Commanders’ reluctance to deviate from conventional norms was
particularly troublesome in the area of small-unit leadership, which the
Army understood was critical in conducting highly dispersed operations. Conventional training regimens generally did not accord junior
officers and noncommissioned officers at the fire team, squad, and
platoon levels much opportunity to plan and direct independent operations. A 1962 survey of students at the Infantry School found that 61
percent of the respondents could not recall having received any counterguerrilla leadership training in their units, while 19 percent stated
that their units engaged in such training only occasionally. On the other
hand, 20 percent of the students reported that their parent brigades and
divisions had indeed established special counterguerrilla leadership
academies, some of which offered courses of up to three weeks’ duration. Such institutions became more common as the decade progressed,
as commanders became ever more aware of the need to improve their
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
“Guerrillas” maneuver during a 1962 counterguerrilla exercise at Fort
Carson, Colorado.
units’ counterguerrilla proficiency. In fact, while some units did little
more than the minimum expected of them, others well exceeded Army
standards. Weaknesses remained, however, even in crack outfits like
the 173d Airborne Brigade, which prior to its deployment to Vietnam
in May 1965 had seldom given its junior noncommissioned officers the
opportunity to lead independent patrols, a skill that would soon be in
high demand.105
Technically, CONARC’s regulations only applied to units in the
continental United States, but overseas Army commands generally followed CONARC’s lead. This was especially true in Asia, where U.S.
Army, Pacific, imposed mandatory counterguerrilla training for all
combat and combat support units. By the spring of 1962 its three major
units—the 7th and 25th Infantry Divisions and 1st Cavalry Division—
were all operating special counterinsurgency schools, while the U.S.
Eighth Army had a counterinsurgency study group as well.106
Meanwhile, back home Continental Army Command introduced
a special lecture program for all incoming recruits. It consisted of
two hours of counterinsurgency and one hour of counterguerrilla
orientation in basic training, with the two-hour counterinsurgency
lecture repeated in advanced individual training, supplemented by
a three-hour course on communism. These courses reviewed Maoist
principles, endorsed land reform and economic growth as tools to
eliminate the causes of disaffection, and cited historical examples
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
“Guerrilla” mortarmen emerge from concealment
during Vietnam-oriented training.
of counterinsurgency operations. The orientation programs also
reviewed Communist tactics based on Viet Minh manuals and warned
soldiers that they would have to modify conventional tactics if they
were to defeat such an opponent.107
By the end of 1962 CONARC had erected special counterguerrilla
reaction and testing courses at each of its major recruit training facilities, with the command claiming that 25 percent of all recruit training was now directly related to counterinsurgency. It had also begun
encouraging commanders to integrate Vietnam experience into their
training programs, assisting them by periodically disseminating the latest lessons learned from that part of the world. Finally, in November,
in the most important training development of the year, Continental
Army Command mandated that all regular combat units in the United
States conduct six weeks of counterguerrilla training annually. The new
program was identical to that established in March for the backup brigades and consisted of three phases, each of two weeks’ duration. The
first phase focused on individual and Ranger-type training. The second
phase consisted of small-unit counterguerrilla tactics, while the third
phase was devoted entirely to field training, culminating in a battalionlevel exercise.108
The six-week counterguerrilla training program represented the
single largest block of mandatory training imposed by the Continental
Army Command. Many commanders disliked the requirement,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
believing that it was too restrictive and that it contravened the latitude
the Army customarily accorded commanders in managing their training time. Although the command refused to budge on this issue, it did
eventually reduce the number of hours of counterinsurgency lectures
given to recruits on the grounds that many of the subjects were too
abstract for young soldiers to absorb. Still, by 1963 all of the elements of the Army’s counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla training
program were in place. All soldiers were expected to be familiar with
the general precepts of American counterinsurgency doctrine, and all
underwent some form of mandatory counterguerrilla training each
year, with combat units receiving the most intense training. Although
training increasingly took on a Vietnam focus as the decade wore on,
officially training was to be generic in nature. Only after receiving
notification of a possible overseas deployment were units to begin
training for a specific theater of operations during a short, intensive
program that would include both general counterguerrilla and countryspecific environmental and cultural training. Such an approach was
essential due to the impossibility of predicting where units might be
called upon to serve.109
CONARC assisted officers in crafting their training programs with
an extensive catalog of all available counterinsurgency training materials. Several manuals were also particularly useful to the trainer, including
FM 30–102, Aggressor Forces (1963), which provided advice on integrating guerrillas into training exercises; FM 31–30, Jungle Operations
(1960); FM 31–30, Jungle Training and Operations (1965); and FM
57–35, Airmobile Operations (1960 and 1963). Other manuals of special utility were FM 31–18, Long Range Patrols (1962 and 1965); FM
21–75, Combat Training of the Individual Soldier and Patrolling (1962);
and FM 21–50, Ranger Training and Ranger Operations (1962).
FM 31–18, Long Range Patrols, described the organization, function, and operation of long-range reconnaissance patrols (LRRPs).
These were small teams of highly trained soldiers whose primary
mission was to gather intelligence and acquire targets deep in enemy
territory—a concept the Army would shortly put to the test in Vietnam.
FM 21–75, Combat Training of the Individual Soldier and Patrolling,
not only covered ambush, patrol, and airmobile techniques applicable
to counterguerrilla warfare, but also impressed upon each soldier the
importance of proper behavior toward civilians, noting that
practicing self-discipline is an extremely important part of combating the
guerrilla. Almost every man is proud of the spiritual values, culture, and customs of his country. If you ignore or neglect the importance of these items,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Soldiers search “dead” insurgents that they have just
ambushed during training.
hatred of you and sympathy for the guerrilla will result. The guerrilla desires
to spread resentment against you and your country. Disregarding these considerations will aid his effort. Self-discipline, combined with a firm, just, and
understanding policy in dealing with civilians, will reduce chances of guerrilla
The 1962 edition of FM 21–50, Ranger Training and Ranger
Operations, further reinforced the Army’s efforts to develop the type
of highly skilled infantrymen so necessary in counterguerrilla warfare.
The Ranger movement of the 1950s continued to flourish into the
1960s, with concomitant benefits for counterguerrilla proficiency as a
whole. Not only did Army regulations require that all rifle companies
undergo annual Ranger training, but by 1962, 80 percent of all Regular
Army second lieutenants had already taken the Ranger course at Fort
Benning. In 1964 the Army directed that all Regular Army officers
should take either Ranger or airborne training, and the following year
the Infantry School revised the Ranger curriculum to include an eighteen-day counterguerrilla phase. Ultimately, in 1966 the Army would
make Ranger training mandatory for all newly commissioned Regular
Army officers.111
Commanders put all of their training efforts to the test through
exercises. Initially, most counterguerrilla exercises were merely small
phases of larger conventional exercises. Such exercises usually had a
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Helicopter shortages meant that soldiers sometimes had to practice
airmobile operations using mock-ups.
rear area flavor and were of limited utility. However, as time passed
all-guerrilla exercises became more common, as did the use of “live”
guerrillas played by combinations of regular soldiers and Special
Forces teams. The vast majority of these exercises emphasized smallunit operations, patrolling, camp and march security, ambush and counterambush situations, raids, and night and aerial movements. Exercises
involving entire brigades or divisions in a counterguerrilla role were
rare. Artillery and tactical airpower were also seldom employed in
training exercises. More important, the small inventory of helicopters
meant that few units had any opportunity to practice the airmobile tactics espoused by doctrine.112
Perhaps the most difficult aspect for Army trainers to simulate
was the complex interrelationship between soldiers, civilians, and a
covert insurgent apparatus. Although many exercises included civil,
psychological, and intelligence aspects, there was never enough
time and resources to depict the twilight struggle that occurred in
the villages. The Army recognized this problem. FM 31–16 (1963)
declared that “it is impossible to conduct a three- or four-day exercise and expect elements of a large unit to realistically locate, harass,
consolidate, and eliminate a guerrilla force in its area during the
available time. Such an operation may take weeks or months in actual
combat. By the same token, it is impossible in a short-term exercise
to conduct extensive civic action or police operations concurrently
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
with combat operations and receive any significant proficiency in
the skills involved.”113
The fact of the matter was that counterinsurgency just did not lend
itself very well to customary exercise schedules. Although the Army
never resolved this problem, it did come up with some partial solutions.
As in the 1950s, one of the leaders in pacification simulation was the
25th Infantry Division. The division used mock villages to train its
soldiers in the full range of pacification strategies, from civic action to
more severe methods, in which soldiers were instructed to “move the
people out of the area and then destroy their crops, put the area off limits, and shoot anyone who goes into this area.”114 Still, there was always
an air of artificiality about such undertakings.
A more promising method was available when maneuvers were
held off military reservations because in these areas the Army was able
to incorporate local inhabitants into exercise play. The usual technique
was to have the “guerrillas” enter the maneuver area first to give them
a chance to familiarize themselves with the terrain and cultivate the
friendship of the local populace. Then, once the exercise began, the
counterinsurgents would try to woo the population away from the guerrillas. Typically, the counterinsurgents attempted to achieve this goal
by issuing propaganda, distributing candy, hosting concerts and sporting events, providing free medical care, and performing civil works.
Sometimes these measures paid off, as occurred during one exercise in
Germany, where villagers promptly turned in a German Army “guerrilla” force after the Americans built the village a soccer field. More
often than not, the allure of being on the side of the underdog proved too
great. In exercise after exercise, civilians freely provided guerrillas with
food, shelter, and information, while giving a cold shoulder to counterinsurgents. During Exercise Helping Hand II, held in Washington
state, townspeople flew revolutionary flags while children posed for
guerrilla propaganda photos that purported to show U.S. soldiers killing
innocent boys and girls. During Exercise Sherwood Forest, also held
in Washington, businesses temporarily “hired” guerrillas as cover for
their espionage activities, while a school let the irregulars use its mimeograph machine to churn out anti-American pamphlets. During another
exercise, the inhabitants of a North Carolina town hosted a “guerrilla
appreciation night” that featured a potluck supper and country music.
Civilian enthusiasm for the guerrillas was sometimes so intense
that it became hard to control. In one case, a group of college students
formed their own partisan unit. In another, a sheriff fired an employee
who had provided information to counterguerrilla forces, while a sevenyear-old boy attacked and bit soldiers who had captured a guerrilla who
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Soldiers enter a mock village during counterguerrilla training in
Hawaii in 1962.
had befriended him. Sometimes the guerrillas too became unmanageable, committing acts of vandalism or establishing bases outside the
authorized exercise area, a real-life tactic that infuriated counterinsurgent players. Ultimately, most counterinsurgents shared the experience
of the 2d Infantry Division, which ruefully reported after one 1964
exercise that “civic affairs productions were well-attended and politely
applauded, but they did not change the basic loyalty of anyone.”115
The State of Affairs, 1965
In January 1962, one year after he had initiated the counterinsurgency drive, President Kennedy told Secretary of Defense Robert S.
McNamara that he was “not satisfied that the Department of Defense,
and in particular the Army, is according the necessary degree of
attention and effort to the threat of insurgency and guerrilla war.” Just
a few months later, as General Decker’s new education and training
initiatives began to take root, the president evinced a more favorable
attitude, remarking that “they’re beginning to recognize the nature of
the problem, and what they’re doing at Fort Bragg is really good.”116
Whether the president would have been satisfied with the state of
affairs as they emerged by 1965 is impossible to say. Certainly he
would have recognized that his strategy for defeating wars of national
liberation continued to be bedeviled by a number of conceptual,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
With the help of an interpreter and friendly village officials, an Army
patrol interrogates captured “guerrillas” during training.
organizational, and programmatic weaknesses. Nevertheless, much
had been achieved.
In just a few short years the Army had completely restructured its
divisions into a new configuration more capable of executing the flexible response strategy. It had developed an entirely new dimension of
warfare—airmobility—and elevated that concept to a prominent place
in its approach to counterguerrilla warfare. It had improved both the
quantity and quality of the advice it gave to nations threatened by insurgencies by adjusting military assistance programs, expanding Special
Forces, and creating new entities, like the Special Action Forces, which
spread American counterinsurgency methods around the globe. It had
absorbed the thrust of popular counterinsurgency and developmental
theory and blended these with traditional Army counterguerrilla and
civil affairs precepts to produce an extensive body of doctrinal literature. It had also made significant efforts to see that this doctrine was
understood and practiced by all echelons. While Army leaders had not
always agreed with the full scope of Kennedy’s policies, they had made
a creditable effort to implement them.117
Such at least was the finding of a special commission established
by President Johnson in 1965 to review the state of the national counterinsurgency program. The panel, which consisted of representatives of
every federal agency involved in the counterinsurgency effort, reported
that the Army was the only agency that had developed a cogent, written
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
doctrine for counterinsurgency and that only it and the Marine Corps
had comprehensive training programs to disseminate that doctrine to
all ranks. Given the government’s stance that counterinsurgency was
primarily a political and not a military phenomenon, the failure of the
government’s civilian agencies to match the Army’s efforts in developing and disseminating doctrine did not bode well for a program that
required a high degree of civil-military coordination.118
Still, the Army could take pride in its achievements, for after a
somewhat slow start in 1961, it had by 1965 succeeded in integrating
counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla warfare in substantive ways
into its doctrinal, educational, and training systems. At no other time in
its history had the Army been better prepared to wage a counterinsurgency campaign, if preparedness is measured in the amount of manual
pages, classroom time, and training exercises specifically devoted to
counterinsurgent warfare. The question was, would it be enough to
meet Khrushchev’s challenge?
Inaugural Address, 20 Jan 61, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United
States: John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1962),
p. 1.
Quotes from Special Message on Urgent National Needs to Congress, 25 May
61, in ibid., pp. 397, 399, respectively. Lawrence Grinter, “How They Lost: Doctrines,
Strategies and Outcomes of the Vietnam War,” Asian Survey 15 (December 1975):
First quote from David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random
House, 1972), p. i (title page). Second quote from Packenham, Liberal America, p.
61, and see also pp. 6, 18–21, 62–63, 253. Sir Henry Gurney, British high commissioner for Malaya, coined the phrase “hearts and minds” in 1951 to describe efforts
to defeat Communist guerrillas through political and social action during the Malayan
emergency. Americans in the 1960s adopted the phrase to describe their own politically
oriented approach to counterinsurgency. Third quote from CGSC, Counterinsurgency
Case History, Malaya: 1948–60, RB 31–2 (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: CGSC, 1965),
p. 6. Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 9–13, 21, 49–50, 79, 104, 111, 135; DePauw
and Luz, Winning the Peace, pp. 133–34; Howard Wiarda, Ethnocentrism in Foreign
Policy: Can We Understand the Third World? (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise
Institute for Public Policy Research, 1985), pp. 1–4; Charles Maechling, “Insurgency
and Counterinsurgency: The Role of Strategic Theory,” Parameters 14 (Autumn 1984):
33. Fourth quote from Latham, Modernization as Ideology, p. 71, and see also pp. 1–8,
50, 56–68, 166–67.
Quote from Maurice Matloff, ed., American Military History, Army Historical
Series (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1989), p. 623.
Department of Defense, Annual Report for Fiscal Year 1965, p. 21; Weigley, History
of the United States Army, pp. 527–28; Doughty, Army Tactical Doctrine, pp. 19–22;
Donald Carter, “From G.I. to Atomic Soldier: The Development of U.S. Army Tactical
Doctrine, 1945–1956” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1987), pp. 210, 219; Myles
Marken, “The Atomic Age Divisions,” Army Information Digest 20 (September 1965):
First quoted word from Seymour Deitchman, Limited War and American Defense
Policy (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1964), p. 4. Second
quote from Andrew Kauffman, “On ‘Wars of National Liberation,’” Military Review
48 (October 1968): 33. Third quoted word from Harry Coles, “Strategic Studies Since
1945, the Era of Overthink,” Military Review 53 (April 1973): 3. Fourth quote from
W. Bruce Weinrod, “Counterinsurgency: Its Role in Defense Policy,” Strategic Review
2 (Fall 1974): 37. Fifth quote from Richard Schultz et al., Guerrilla Warfare and
Counterinsurgency: United States–Soviet Policy in the Third World (Lexington, Mass.:
Lexington Books, 1989), p. 10. For criticisms of the counterinsurgency “fad,” see
Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. ix–x, 101, 374, 384–87, 391–96; Bell, Myth of the Guerrilla, p.
64; Shy and Collier, “Revolutionary War,” in Makers of Modern Strategy, ed. Peter Paret
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 818–19; 840–42, 857–58.
Quote from Department of the Army (DA), Special Warfare: An Army Specialty
(1962), pp. 15–16. Memo, Decker for the President, 15 Feb 61, sub: U.S. Army Role
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
in Guerrilla and Anti-Guerrilla Operations, in 385, Secretary of the Army (Secy of the
Army), 1961–64, RG 335, NARA; Rpt, CSA, n.d., sub: A Compilation of U.S. Army
Cold War Activities, 1 Jan 61 to 26 Jan 62, p. II-14, Historians files, CMH (hereafter
cited as CSA, Cold War Activities).
Quoted words from Rpt, DCSOPS, 2 Jan 62, sub: Concept of Employment of
U.S. Army Forces in Paramilitary Operations, p. 2, Historians files, CMH. CSA, Cold
War Activities, pp. I-3, I-4; Jonathan Ladd, “Some Reflections on Counterinsurgency,”
Military Review 44 (October 1964): 75.
Quote from Stephen Bowman, “The Evolution of United States Army Doctrine for
Counterinsurgency Warfare: From World War II to the Commitment of Combat Units
in Vietnam” (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1985), p. 134, and see also pp. 5–6. Lloyd
Norman and John Spore, “Big Push in Guerrilla Warfare,” Army 12 (March 1962):
Quote from Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, p. 80. Richard Betts, Soldiers,
Statesmen, and Cold War Crises (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977),
p. 130; Ricky Waddell, “The Army and Peacetime Low Intensity Conflict, 1961–1993:
The Process of Peripheral and Fundamental Military Change” (Ph.D. diss., Columbia
University, 1994), p. 141; Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 85; Andrew
Krepinevich, The U.S. Army and Vietnam: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and the Army
Concept of War (Fort Bragg, N.C.: U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center,
1984), pp. 25–26; Memos, Krulak for Chair, JCS, 10 Apr 62, sub: Special Group
(Counterinsurgency), Establishment of Special Group (Counterinsurgency), Wheeler
files, RG 218, NARA, and Krulak for Lansdale, Rosson, 22 May 62, sub: Counter-guerrilla Tactics, 370.64, CSA, 1962, RG 319, NARA.
Quote from Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 85, and see also pp. 113–
14. David Petraeus, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of
Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” (Ph.D. diss., Woodrow
Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, 1987), p. 96.
Quoted words from William Yarborough, “‘Young Moderns’ Are Impetus Behind
Army’s Special Forces,” Army 12 (March 1962): 38. Betts, Soldiers, Statesmen, pp. 10–
13; Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 179; Thomas Adams, “Military Doctrine
and the Organization Culture of the U.S. Army” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1990),
pp. 5–6, 68.
Quote from Corr and Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict, p. 21. Charles Maechling,
“Counterinsurgency: The First Ordeal by Fire,” in Low-Intensity Warfare, ed. Michael
Klare and Peter Kornbluh (New York: Pantheon, 1988), pp. 26–27; Michael Hennessy,
Strategy in Vietnam: The Marines and Revolutionary Warfare in I Corps, 1965–1972
(Westport, Conn.: Frederick A. Praeger, 1997), p. 18; George Tanham, War Without
Guns (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966), pp. 7, 24; Memo, Special Group,
Counterinsurgency, for the President, 20 Jul 62, sub: Report of the Committee on Police
Assistance Programs, p. 1, Historians files, CMH.
Doughty, Army Tactical Doctrine, pp. 46–48.
Memo, Lt Gen Earle Wheeler, Dir, Joint Staff, for Chair, JCS, 9 Feb 61, sub:
Review of Lieutenant General McGarr’s Papers, in 3360, JCS 1961, RG 218, NARA.
Special Warfare School, ST 31–180, Readings in Guerrilla Warfare, 1960 and
1961 editions, and ST 31–170, Tactics and Techniques in Counter-Guerrilla Operations,
c. 1963. Both at Special Warfare School. Lesson Plan C3.A1408, C6.A1408, Special
Warfare School, Fundamentals of Counterguerrilla Operations, 1964, pp. LP-61 to
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
LP-64, MHI; Infantry School, Selected Readings, 1962 and 1965 editions, Infantry
School; T. A. McCarry, Report on the Burma Counterinsurgency Campaign, 1961,
N–18745.10, CARL; Lesson Plan A2310–1, CGSC, 1965–1966, CARL. As late as
1965 the Command and General Staff College still employed the German Army’s 1944
manual, Fighting the Guerrilla Bands, as well as other derivative materials, as course
reading materials. Lesson Plan A2300, CGSC, 1964–1965 , p. L4-1, CARL.
Veterans of the Philippine and Malayan conflicts, including Air Force Maj. Gen.
Edward G. Lansdale, Army Lt. Col. Charles T. R. Bohannan, and Britain’s liaison
officer at the CGSC, Col. Richard L. Clutterbuck, frequently spoke at American educational institutions in the early 1960s. Examples of publications discussing Malaya and
the Philippines include G. C. Phipps, “Guerrillas in Malaya,” Infantry 51 (May–June
1961): 36–40; William Long, “Counterinsurgency: Some Antecedents for Success,”
Military Review 43 (October 1963): 90–97; CGSC, Reference Book (RB) 31–3,
Counterinsurgency Case History, the Philippines, 1946–54, 1965, CGSC.
For examples of Army translations and studies, see Translation, Army G–2,
Counter Guerrilla Training in the Scope of Maintenance in the A.F.N., n.d.; Translation,
Army G–2, Special Training in Counter Guerrilla Warfare, n.d.; Translation, Army G–2,
Guerrilla and Counterguerrilla Operations, 1962. All in MHI. Donn Starry, La Guerre
Revolutionnaire: Some Comments on a Theory of Counterinsurgency Operations
(Student paper, AWC, 1966); William Malone, Unconventional Warfare: A Look at
French “Psychological Action” in Algeria (Student paper, AWC, 1962).
Interv, Andrew Birtle with Carl Bernard, 28 Jan 03, and CONARC,
Counterinsurgency Conference Report, 23–24 March 1962, p. A-16-1, both in
Historians files, CMH; Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” pp. 139–40; AWC,
U.S. Army War College Curriculum Coverage of Counterinsurgency, 1961–62, 1962,
p. 18, MHI; Bernard Fall, “Counterinsurgency: the French Experience,” Industrial
College of the Armed Forces lecture, 1962.
CONARC, Counterinsurgency Conference Report, 23–24 March 1962, p.
A-5-1; Program of Instruction (POI) 33–G–F6, Special Warfare School (SWS)
Counterinsurgency Operations, 1964; Memo, Maj Gen Yarborough for CG, CONARC,
20 Dec 64, sub: Counterinsurgency Training, with atchs, Historians files, CMH; Ltr,
Maj Gen Lawrence J. Lincoln, Commandant, U.S. Army Engineer School, to Gen
Herbert Powell, CG, CONARC, c. 1962, 71A3439, CONARC, RG 338, NARA; Clyde
Eddleman, The Report of Educational Survey Commission of the United States Army
Command and General Staff College, November 1962, p. 55, CARL.
Quote from Addendum to Lesson IV–50, History of Military Art Course, U.S.
Military Academy (USMA), 1962–1963, p. 9. Lesson Plan, USMA 1963–1964, History of
Military Art, pp. 27, 30–33. Both from the Department of Military Arts and Engineering,
Organizational History, POI files, USMA, West Point, N.Y. French Operations in IndoChina, pp. 1–4, 7, atch to Memo, Commander in Chief, Pacific, for Distribution, 16
Oct 61, sub: Lessons from Limited War Operations, with atchs, Historians files, CMH;
Charles Biggio, “Let’s Learn from the French,” Military Review 46 (October 1966): 28–
34; David Foster, Irregular Warfare—Challenge to the Free World (Student paper, AWC,
1962), pp. iii, 26, 36; Lesson Plan 112A, SWS, Insurgency Movement, Indochina, 1965,
pp. LP-1, LP-48, LP-49, LP-65, MHI; Memos, DCSOPS War Plans Div for OPS-PI, n.d.,
sub: Phase III Warfare in Indochina, and Johnson for DCSOPS, 27 Mar 65, both in Geog
v Indochina, 380 Warfare, CMH; “Phase III Warfare Indochina 1951–1954. Vietnam
1965?” Weekly Intelligence Digest, WID 18–65 (1965): 14–15.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Kevin Sheehan, “Preparing for an Imaginary War? Examining Peacetime
Functions and Changes of Army Doctrine” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1988),
pp. 376–77; DA, Special Warfare: An Army Specialty (1962); Donald Rattan,
“Antiguerrilla Operations: A Case Study from History,” Military Review 40 (May
1960): 23–27.
Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” pp. 49–56; “ACSFOR Comes of Age,”
Army Information Digest 20 (February 1965): 34–37; CONARC, Historical Background
of USCONARC Participation in Combat and Materiel Development Activities, Dec 63,
pp. 1–9, 23–24, 32; John Daley, “U.S. Army Combat Developments Command,” Army
Information Digest 17 (September 1962): 13–18.
CDC Planning Group, Preliminary Implementation Plan, vol. 3, Field Agencies,
CDC, 16 Apr 62, ans. A, B, pts. 2 to 7, p. A-iv-A-1; Ltrs, Lt Gen John Daley, CDC
Planning Group to Director, Reorganization Project Office, 11 May 62, sub: Activation
of Remote Area Conflict Office, and Decker to Gen Herbert Powell, 8 Mar 62, with
atched Staff Summary Sheet, Lt Gen Barksdale Hamlett, DCSOPS, to CSA, 26 Feb 62,
sub: Remote Area Conflict Office. All in 69–0630, CDC, RG 338, NARA.
CONARC, Historical Background of USCONARC Participation in Combat and
Materiel Development Activities, Dec 63, p. 37; CDC Cir 10–2, 11 Sep 64, 73A2678,
RG 338, NARA.
FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1961, pp. 3–4. For criticism of
FM 31–15’s view of insurgency, see Laqueur, Guerrilla, p. 377.
FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1961, pp. 4, 5, 12–14, 25, 32.
Quoted words from ibid., p. 27, and see also pp. 25–26, 28, 34.
Quote from ibid., p. 21, and see also pp. 17–22, 24, 36–39, 48.
Quotes from ibid., p. 47, and see also pp. 15–18, 33, 36–39. FM 31–20, Operations
Against Guerrilla Forces, 1951, p. 125.
Quotes from JCS, SM–797–62, 18 Jul 62, sub: Military Accomplishments in the
Counterinsurgency Field Since 20 January 1961, p. I-11, and see also pp. I-1 to I-12,
Historians files, CMH (hereafter cited as Joint Concept).
Quote from ibid., p. I-20, and see also pp. I-14 to I-19. Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency
Era, p. 78.
Quotes from Joint Concept, p. I-29, and see also p. I-24.
Overseas Internal Defense Policy, atch to National Security Action Memorandum
182, Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1 Sep 62 (hereafter cited as OIDP).
Quote from Maechling, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency,” p. 34. Maechling,
“Counterinsurgency,” p. 25; Hennessy, Strategy in Vietnam, p. 18; Schultz, Guerrilla
Warfare, p. 103; Memo, Maj Gen William R. Peers for Gen Taylor, 15 Dec 65, sub:
Review of the Committee I Report, Historians files, CMH; CDC Special Warfare Agency,
Operational, Organizational, and Material Concepts for U.S. Army Counterinsurgency
Operations During the Period 1970–80, Aug 64, pp. 55, 64–66, 76–77.
Quote from OIDP, p. 17.
Ibid., pp. 17–18; Shafer, Deadly Paradigms, pp. 112, 119.
Memo, Decker for Secy of the Army, 14 Sep 62, sub: Army Responsibilities for
Counterinsurgency, 385, Secy of the Army, RG 335, NARA.
Rod Paschall, “Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine: Who Needs It?” Parameters
15 (Autumn 1985): 42; FM 100–5, Field Service Regulations—Operations, 1962, pp.
Quote from FM 33–5, Psychological Operations, 1962, p. 124.
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Quote from FM 41–10, Civil Affairs Operations, 1962, p. 83, and see also pp.
Memo, Lt Gen Barksdale Hamlett, DCSOPS, for CG, CONARC, 7 Dec 61, sub:
Improvement of U.S. Army Capability To Meet Limited and Cold War Requirements,
with atchs, 250/12, DCSOPS 1961, RG 319, NARA; CGSC, A Detailed Concept for
Employment of U.S. Army Combat Units in Military Operations Against Irregular
Forces, 1962, CARL.
Quotes from FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 92, and see also
pp. 31–32, 93–98.
Quote from ibid., p. 96, and see also p. 98.
Quote from ibid., p. 37, and see also pp. 24, 38.
First quote from ibid., p. 20. Remaining quotes from ibid., p. 40, and see also pp.
7, 22, 38–42, 111.
Ibid., pp. 8, 40, 71, 73.
Quote from ibid., p. 31, and see also pp. 21, 32–35, 49, 53, 55–56. FM 31–21,
Guerrilla Warfare, 1955, p. 63. For airmobile issues, see FM 1–100, Army Aviation, 1959
and 1963; FM 57–35, Airmobile Operations, 1960 and 1963; Cheng, Airmobility, pp.
125–30, 175–79, 184–87; Marquis Hilbert and Everett Murray, “Use of Army Aviation
in Counterinsurgency Operations,” U.S. Army Aviation Digest 8 (October 1962): 3–9;
Rpt, CDC, War Game Evaluation of the Air Assault Division in Counterinsurgency
Operations in Southeast Asia, Dec 63, C–1895634, CARL; William Griffin, “Army
Aviation in Support of Counterguerrilla Operations,” U.S. Army Aviation Digest 8
(September 1962): 9–14.
Quotes from FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 60, and see also
pp. 31, 49, 61–70.
FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1961, pp. 29–31; FM 31–16,
Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, pp. 61–63, 67.
Quote from FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 67, and see also
pp. 69–72.
Quote from FM 6–20–2, Field Artillery Techniques, 1962, p. 81. Infantry School,
Infantry Battalion Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1962, p. 15; FM 100–5, Field
Service Regulations—Operations, 1962, pp. 140, 144; Neal Grimland, “The Formidable
Guerrilla,” Army 12 (February 1962): 66; FM 31–20, Operations Against Guerrilla
Forces, 1951, p. 127; FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1961, pp. 14-15;
FM 61–100, The Division, 1962, pp. 243–44.
Quote from Counterinsurgency III, Infantry Career Subcourse 497, Infantry
School, 1965, p. 38. Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference,
15–19 July 1963, p. 119. Compare Great Britain, Ministry of Defence, The Conduct
of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya (London: Ministry of Defence, 1958), pp.
XVIII-1 to XVIII-4, with FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, pp. 83,
Quote from FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1961, p. 44, and see
also p. 15; George Tanham, Doctrine and Tactics of Revolutionary Warfare: The Viet
Minh in Indochina, RM 2395 (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1959), p. 135; FM 31–16,
Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, pp. 84–91; FM 31–22, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency
Forces, 1963, p. 56; FM 61–100, The Division, 1962, pp. 243–44.
Quote from FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 2, and see also pp.
20, 75–76, 79–83, 103–11.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Special Warfare School, ST 31–176, Counterinsurgency Planning Guide, 2d ed.,
1964, pp. 39–46, 77, 80–87, 94–113.
FM 31–22, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Forces, 1963, pp. 20–45, 75–76.
First quote from ibid., p. 84. Second quote from Great Britain, Conduct of AntiTerrorist Operations, p. III-11. FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 37;
Boyd Bashore, “Organization for Frontless War,” Military Review 44 (May 1964): 10,
16; Special Warfare School, ST 31–176, Counterinsurgency Planning Guide, 2d ed.,
1964, p. 70; FM 31–73, Advisor Handbook for Counterinsurgency, 1965, p. 28; Infantry
School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference, 15–19 July 1963, p. 118; John
McCuen, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books,
1966), p. 327.
Quotes from FM 31–22, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Forces, 1963, p. 55, and
see also pp. 70–71.
Quotes from ibid., pp. 61, 81, respectively, and see also pp. 4–5, 9, 60, 77, 96–97,
Quote from FM 100–20, Field Service Regulations, Counterinsurgency, 1964, p.
20, and see also pp. 1–10.
CONARC, CONARC World Wide Combat Arms Conference II, vol. 3, 25–29
Jun 62, p. 56; Annual Hist Sum, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force
Development (OACSFOR), 1 Jul 63 to 30 Jun 64, pp. E-I-1, E-I-2; Rpt, HQDA, U.S.
Army Special Warfare Study and Program, Fiscal Years (FYs) 63–68, 1962, pp. 76–77,
FM 31–20, Special Forces Operational Techniques, 1965, pp. 47, 49–50, 68–69;
Special Warfare Agency, Doctrinal Literature for Special Warfare, 1964, pp. 1, 4–6,
26–31, and an. B, pp. 1–7, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from Ltr, Gen Johnson to Lt Gen Dwight Beach, CG, CDC, 24 Aug 64,
73–2678, CDC, RG 338, NARA. Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” pp. 127–31;
Memos, Col Darnell, CDC, for Maj Gen Harry L. Hillyard, 13 Apr 64, sub: Aftermath
of General H. K. Johnson’s Vietnam Visit, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA; Lt Gen
Harold K. Johnson, DCSOPS, for Dir of Special Warfare, 14 Apr 64, sub: Special
Warfare Doctrine, p. 2, Historians files, CMH; and Johnson for ACSFOR, 29 Jun 64,
sub: Doctrine, Training and Organization for Counter Insurgency, Historians files,
Ltr, Gen Johnson to Gen Hugh Harris, CG, CONARC, 29 Oct 64, 71A2333, RG
338, NARA.
Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” pp. 128–31; Rpt, CDC, Nov 64, sub:
Program for Analysis and Development of U.S. Counterinsurgency Doctrine and
Organization, p. B-3, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA (hereafter cited as CDC,
Program for Analysis).
Quotes from FM 31–73, Advisor Handbook for Counterinsurgency, 1965, pp. 22,
87, respectively, and see also pp. 58–63, 67, 180–81. Other texts also cautioned against
indiscriminate fire. See, for example, FM 6–20–1, Field Artillery Tactics, 1965, p. 48;
Infantry School, Infantry Battalion Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1962, p. 15.
Quote from CDC, Program for Analysis, p. 3, and see also pp. 1, 4. Briefing, CDC
Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group to Gen Ben Harrell, CG, CDC, 5 May 66, CDC,
73A2677, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from CDC, Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group, Concepts and General
Doctrine for Counterinsurgency, Jul 65, pp. 56–57. Memo, Lt Gen Dwight Beach, CG,
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
CDC, for Distribution, 8 Dec 64, sub: Counterinsurgency Doctrinal Review Program;
Fact Sheet, CDC, 4 Jan 66, sub: Program for Analysis and Development of US
Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Organization. All in 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA.
Ltr, Johnson to Beach, 29 Oct 64, 71A3439, CONARC, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from CDC, Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group, Concepts and General
Doctrine for Counterinsurgency, Jul 65, p. 98, and see also pp. 26–27, 73–74, 79, 83.
Ibid., p. 98.
Ibid., p. 99.
Quotes from Special Warfare Agency, Doctrinal Literature for Counterinsurgency,
1965, pp. 35, 56, respectively, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA. Bashore, “Organization
for Frontless War,” pp. 10, 16; FM 61–100, The Division, 1965, p. 149; Gustav Gillert,
“Counterinsurgency,” Military Review 45 (April 1965): 31; FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla
Operations, 1963, pp. 47, 69; Henry Emerson, Can We Out-Guerrilla the Communist
Guerrillas? (Student paper, AWC, 1965), pp. 45–52.
First quote from SORO, Motivating Populations To Support Counterinsurgency,
1965, p. 9, and see also pp. 111, 169, 23A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA. Remaining
quotes from Special Operations Research Office, Symposium Proceedings. The
U.S. Army’s Limited-War Mission and Social Science Research (Washington, D.C.:
American University, 1962), p. 163.
First two quotes from Memo, Lt Gen Palmer for CSA, c. 1965, sub: Study on
Lower Spectrum Conflict—WINS-II. Third quote from Study, DCSOPS, 1965, sub: A
Worldwide Integral National Strategy for 1970, pt. II, p. 21. Both in 68A2344, RG 319,
Rpt, Counter-insurgency Operations Instruction and Related Matters, pp. 9–10,
atch to Memo, Brig Gen Richard Stilwell for Secy of the Army, 6 Oct 61, sub: Report
on the Counter-insurgency Operations Course and Related Matters, 319.1, CSA, RG
319, NARA. Rpt, Brig Gen Stilwell, 13 Oct 61, sub: Army Activities in Underdeveloped
Areas Short of Declared War, pp. 47–48, atch to Memo, Stilwell for Secy of the Army,
13 Oct 61, sub: Army Activities in Underdeveloped Areas Short of Declaring War,
and Rpt, CONARC, 28 Jan 62, sub: Special Warfare Board, Final Report, p. 5, both in
Historians files, CMH.
SWS, A Summary of Counter Guerrilla Operational Concepts, 1961, pp. 1–3,
12; POI, SWS, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, Oct 60, Historians files, CMH; Rpt,
Counterinsurgency Training for Officers in Military Schools, p. 13, atch to Memo,
Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff for Special Warfare Activities (SACSA) for Dep
Secy of Defense, 14 May 62, sub: Training Objectives for Counterinsurgency, 3360, JCS
1961, RG 218, NARA.
Rpt, JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency Programs,
Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of 1 August 1965, p. III-106, C–15361.90,
POI 41–G–F7, Civil Affairs School, Civic Action, 1963, Historians files, CMH;
Barber and Ronning, Internal Security, pp. 152–54; Civil Affairs School, ST 41–10–90,
Command and Staff Guidelines for Civic Action, 1964.
By 1962 the Infantry School had accumulated 202 publications on counterinsurgency. D. M. Condit et al., A Counterinsurgency Bibliography (Washington, D.C.:
American University, Special Operations Research Office, 1963); Infantry School,
Military Operations Against Irregular Forces: A Bibliography of Works Available in the
U.S. Army Infantry School Library, 1962, Infantry School.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
The Infantry journal alone published over seventy articles pertaining to unconventional and counterinsurgency warfare between 1961 and 1965. Memo, Lemnitzer for
Maj Gen Clifton, 23 Jan 62, sub: Coverage on Guerrilla and Counter-Guerrilla War in
Professional Military Journals, 370.64, Lemnitzer, RG 218, NARA.
POI 33–G–F8, SWS, Senior Officer Counterinsurgency and Special Warfare
Orientation Course, 1962; William Peers, “Meeting the Challenge of Subversion,” Army
15 (November 1964): 97; Rpt, JCS 1969/212, 1 Jun 61, sub: Status of Development of
Counterguerrilla Forces, p. 1867, C–15361.90–A, CARL.
The statistics are for the Infantry and Special Forces branch career courses as
of July 1961. Hours Programmed for Instruction in Counterguerrilla Warfare in U.S.
Army Service Schools, 28 Jul 61, Incl 2 to Memo, DCSOPS for Dir, Joint Staff, 28 Jul
61, sub: Status of Development of Counter Guerrilla Forces, 250/15, DCSOPS 1961,
RG 319, NARA; CONARC, Counterinsurgency Conference Report, 23–24 March
1962, pp. A-10-3 and A-10-11; Rpt, JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military
Counterinsurgency Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of August 1965,
p. II-4.
Rpt, JCS 1969/330, 9 Apr 62, sub: Status of Development of Counterguerrilla
Forces, pp. 6, 16–17, C–15361.90–A, CARL; Memo, SWS to CG, CONARC, 19 Mar
62, sub: Common Subject “Counterinsurgency Operations,” N–18517.50, CARL;
Rpt, Counterinsurgency Training for Officers in Military Schools, p. 12, atch to
Memo, SACSA for Dep Secy of Defense, 14 May 62, sub: Training Objectives for
Quotes from Ltr, Stilwell to DCSOPS, 7 Mar 62, sub: Counterinsurgency
Instruction at USMA. Memo, Stilwell for Superintendent, USMA, 10 May 62, sub:
Interim Report of the Counterinsurgency Committee. Both in 10002–02, Training
(Counterinsurgency Committee), Training Operations files, USMA. Krepinevich, The
U.S. Army and Vietnam: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and the Army Concept of War, pp.
61–62; Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 110.
National Security Action Memorandum 131, Training Objectives to Combat
Subversive Insurgency, 13 Mar 62, 3360, JCS 1961, RG 218, NARA. Rpts, DA, c.
62, sub: U.S. Army Special Warfare Study and Program, FY 63–68, pp. 55, 75–76;
Brig Gen Stillwell, 13 Oct 61, sub: Army Activities in Underdeveloped Areas Short of
Declared War; and CONARC, 28 Jan 62, sub: Special Warfare Board, Final Report,
pp. 4, 12, 52. All in Historians files, CMH. Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,”
pp. 93–97.
Rpt, Counterinsurgency Training for Officers in Military Schools, pp. 12–13, atch
to Memo, SACSA for Dep Secy of Defense, 14 May 62, sub: Training Objectives for
Counterinsurgency; Ltr, Powell, CG, CONARC, to Distribution, 15 Aug 62, 71A2333,
RG 338, NARA. Rpts, HQDA, U.S. Army Special Warfare Study and Program, FY
63–68, 1962, p. 70; JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency
Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of 1 August 1963, p. II-4, C–15361.90,
CARL; and JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency
Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of February 1964, p. II-4, C–15361.90,
CARL. Briefing, CGSC to Maj Gen Peers, 11 Oct 65, sub: Individual Counterinsurgency
Training, p. 5, Historians files, CMH.
Quote from CONARC SubjScd 444, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Military
Science II and III, Introduction to Counterinsurgency Operations, 1963, p. 8.
“Counterguerrilla Units Flourish in ROTC,” Army Reservist 9 (April 1963): 15; David
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
Blackledge, “ROTC Counterguerrillas,” Infantry 53 (January–February 1963): 49–50;
Rpt, JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency Programs,
Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of 1 August 1965, pp. II-2 to II-4.
First Class Staff Study, USMA, Office of Military Instruction, Department of
Tactics, 1963, p. 3, 1011–03, Course Publication files, Curriculum—Tactics; POI,
USMA, History of Military Art Course 401–402, Department of Military Art and
Engineering, Organizational History, POI files; The Combined Arms Team (Company),
USMA, Office of Military Instruction, Department of Tactics, 1963; Memo, Brig
Gen Michael S. Davison, Commandant of Cadets, for Superintendent, USMA, 8 Jul
63, sub: Report of Counterinsurgency Committee, p. 5, and atched paper, Regular
Counterinsurgency Instruction, 1963–64, 10002–02, Training (Counterinsurgency
Committee), Training Operations files; Program of Military Instruction, 1963–64, Dept.
of Tactics, 1011–03, Course Pub. files, Curriculum—Tactics; The Combined Arms
Team (Battalion), USMA, Office of Military Instruction, Department of Tactics, 1963.
All at USMA.
Quote from Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference, 15–19
July 1963, pp. 105–06, and see also pp. 108–09.
Ibid., p. 127; Bobby Boyd, Does the Infantry Officer Career Course CounterGuerrilla Instruction Meet the Needs of the Infantry Officer? (Student paper, Infantry
Officers Career Course (IOCC), Infantry School, 1961); Peter Andre, Counter Guerrilla
Warfare (Student paper, IOCC, Infantry School, 1960–61); POI 7–A–C20, Infantry
School, Infantry Officer Basic Course, 1963; Memo, W. Hamilton, CDC Special
Warfare Group, for Col Marr, 31 Aug 64, sub: Counterinsurgency Courses, 73A2677,
CDC, RG 338, NARA; POI 2–7–C20, Infantry School, Infantry Officer Basic Course,
Quote from Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference, 15–19
July 1963, p. 123, and see also p. 109. Counterinsurgency II, Infantry Career Subcourse
497, Infantry School, Apr 65, p. 3; Counterinsurgency III, Infantry Career Subcourse
497, Infantry School, Apr 65, p. 76.
First quote from SWS, ST 31–170, Counter-Guerrilla Operations, p. 38. Second
quote from Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference, 15–19 July
1963, p. 118. Infantry School, Military Operations Against Irregular Forces, 1962, p. 39;
POI 7–A–C22, Infantry School, Infantry Officer Career Course, 1963.
First quote from Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference,
15–19 July 1963, p. 107. Second quote from Lesson Plan 6062, Infantry School, 1962,
Fundamentals of Counterguerrilla Operations, p. 27.
First quote from Infantry School, Military Operations Against Irregular Forces,
1962, p. 38, and see also pp. 21, 37–38, 68–69. Second and third quotes from Lesson
Plan 6405, SWS, 1964, p. LP-28, and see also pp. LP-29 to 36. Infantry School, Report
of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference, 15–19 July 1963, p. 126; Counterinsurgency III,
Infantry Career Subcourse 497, Infantry School, Apr 65, p. 71.
Advance Sheet 6063, 6064, Infantry School, Fundamentals of Counterinsurgency
Operations, 1962; Infantry School, Report of the Infantry Instructors’ Conference,
15–19 July 1963, pp. 38–39, 110; POI 7–A–C22, Infantry School 1963, Infantry Officer
Career Course; Thomas Block, “Quick Fire,” Infantry 54 (January–February 1964):
18–19; Infantry School, Infantry Instructors’ Workshop, Report of Conference, 17–20
August 1965, pp. 59–60; Historical Supplement, 1965, U.S. Army Infantry School,
1966, pp. 8, 11–12, 17–18, 22–23.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Lesson Plan 4112–3/2, CGSC, 1961–1962, pp. LP-III-2, LP-III-3; Briefing,
CGSC, Oct 65, sub: Committee II (Training), President’s Review of Counterinsurgency,
pp. D-1, D-5, N–13423.355–B–3, CARL; Eddleman, “Report of Educational
Survey Commission,” pp. 12, 55–57; Memo, Hamilton for Marr, 31 Aug 64, sub:
Counterinsurgency Courses; Lesson Plans R2310/5, CGSC, 1964–1965; M 2300–1,
CGSC, 1964–1965, p. L1-AS-1-2, and see also p. L1-AS-1-4; M2300–3, CGSC, 1964–
1965; R2310–1, CGSC, Combined Operations in Tropical Africa Counterinsurgency,
1962–1963; R5170, CGSC, Corps Operations in Tropical Africa, 1964–1965; 4112–3/2,
CGSC, 1961–1962, p. LP-III-17; M2300–1 and M2300–2, CGSC, Introduction to
Unconventional Warfare and Counterinsurgency Operations—Operations Against
Irregular Forces, 1962–1963; and A2300, CGSC, 1964–1965.
AWC, U.S. Army War College Curriculum Coverage of Counterinsurgency, 1961–
62, 1962; AWC, AWC Curriculum Pamphlet, 1962–63, pp. 8–11; AWC, U.S. Army War
College Curriculum Coverage of Counterinsurgency, 1962–63, p. 22; Memo, Col R.
Dalrymple, c. 1963, sub: Counterinsurgency Education, p. 2, Industrial College of the
Armed Forces, Military Education Coordination Conference, tab G, box II-C-I, Service
War Colleges Annual Meetings, 1961–63. All in AWC Curricular Archives, MHI.
AWC, AWC Curriculum Pamphlet for 1963–64, pp. 11, 16; AWC, AWC Curriculum
Pamphlet for 1964–65, p. 8; AWC, AWC Curriculum Pamphlet for 1965–66, pp. 10–11;
AWC, Positions for the Department of the Army Board to Review Army Officers
Schools, 21 Sep 65, pp. 21–24, 53. All in AWC Curricular Archives, MHI.
Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 121; CONARC, CONARC World Wide
Combat Arms Conference II, vol. 3, 25–29 Jun 62, pp. 201–02; Sheehan, “Preparing for
an Imaginary War?” p. 293.
William Rosson, “Accent on Cold War Capabilities,” Army Information Digest
17 (May 1962): 5; Memo, DCSOPS for Dir, Joint Staff, 28 Jul 61, sub: Status of
Development of Counter Guerrilla Forces; Heath Twichell, Counter Guerrilla Warfare
Training (Student paper, Infantry School, 1961), p. 2.
Quote from Stanton Smith, Counterinsurgency Training for the Infantry Platoon
Leader (Student paper, Infantry School, 1961), p. 1, and see also p. 2. CONARC, Annex
N to USCONARC Training Directive, Counter Guerrilla Training, 30 Sep 61, Historians
files, CMH; Memo, Maj Gen John L. Throckmorton, SGS, for Dep CSs et al., 21 Nov
61, sub: Special Warfare Activities, Historians files, CMH; Bowman, “Evolution of
Army Doctrine,” pp. 92, 179; Army Training Programs, Training Tests and Subject
Schedules To Be Published or Revised To Increase Emphasis on Counterguerrilla
Warfare Training, 28 Jul 61, Incl 4 to Memo, DCSOPS for Dir, Joint Staff, 28 Jul 61,
sub: Status of Development of Counter Guerrilla Forces; ATP 7–18–1, Rifle Company,
Infantry, Airborne and Mechanized Infantry Battalions, Dec 61.
Boyd, Infantry Officer Course, an. A; Norman and Spore, “Big Push,” p. 28;
Schultz, Guerrilla Warfare, p. 105; Rpt, CONARC, 28 Jan 62, sub: Special Warfare
Board, Final Report, pp. 19–20.
CONARC, Annex N to USCONARC Training Directive, Counterinsurgency/
Counterguerrilla Warfare Training, 30 Mar 62, pp. N-4, N-5, N-IV-1; FM 31–22, U.S.
Army Counterinsurgency Forces, 1963, pp. 87–92; Memo, CONARC for CG, 3d Army,
17 Apr 62, sub: Counterguerrilla Warfare Training, N–18668.39, CARL; Rpt, HQDA,
U.S. Army Special Warfare Study and Program, FY 63–68, 1962, an. V; Memo, Lt Gen
Barksdale Hamlett, DCSOPS, for CG, CONARC, c. Mar 62, sub: U.S. Continental
Army Command Special Warfare Board, with atch, Historians files, CMH.
The Counterinsurgency Ferment, 1961–1965
David Pemberton, Battalion Counterguerrilla/Insurgency Training for Specific
World Areas (Annex A) (Student paper, Infantry School, 1962), p. 1; Wilford Warren,
Antiguerrilla Operations (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1961); J. A. Wallace,
“Counterinsurgency ATT,” Army 16 (August 1966): 76–77; Ben Walton, Army Training
Program To Train the Infantry Company for Both Conventional and Unconventional
Combat (Student paper, IOAC, Infantry School, 1962).
Richard Scott, Training of the Junior Leader for Counter Guerrilla Warfare
(Student paper, Infantry School, 1962), an. B; William Olds, Predeployment Training
of B Company, 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Sep) on Okinawa
During the Period February Through April 1965 (Personal Experience of a Platoon
Leader) (Student paper, Infantry School, 1965), p. 23; Smith, Counterinsurgency
Training, an. D; Rpt, JCS, n.d., sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency
Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of 1 August 1965, p. IV-16; Harry
Trigg, “A New ATT,” Army 13 (February 1963): 35–39.
Memo, CINCPAC for JCS, 4 May 62, sub: Status of Development of CounterGuerrilla Forces, p. 15, Historians files, CMH.
Rpt, HQDA, U.S. Army Special Warfare Study and Program, FY 63–68, 1962,
p. 70; CONARC Pam 515–2, Counterinsurgency, 1962; CONARC Pam 516–2,
Counterinsurgency Operations, Counterinsurgency—An Orientation for Basic and
Advanced Trainees, 1963.
CONARC, CONARC World Wide Combat Arms Conference II, vol. 3, 25–29 Jun
62, pp. 199, 202–03; Rpt, JCS, sub: Development Status of Military Counterinsurgency
Programs, Including Counterguerrilla Forces, as of 1 August 1963, p. IV-7; “USCONARC
Uses Viet Nam Lessons in Counterinsurgency,” Army Reservist 8 (November 1962): 11;
CONARC, Appendix VII to Annex of CONARC Training Directive, Nov 62.
CONARC, Annex N to USCONARC Training Directive, Counter Guerrilla
Warfare Training, 22 Apr 64; Army Regulation (AR) 220–55, Field Organizations,
Field and Command Post Exercises, 18 Jun 64, p. 3; Memo, CONARC for Distribution,
26 Aug 63, sub: Revised Infantry AIT Program, Historians files, CMH; Ltr, Maj Gen
Hugh M. Exton, Dep CS for Unit Training and Readiness, CONARC, to ACSFOR, 3
Oct 63, sub: Mandatory Training Requirements, and Fact Sheet, 5 Feb 64, sub: Training
Subjects and the Extent of Their Impact on Total Available Training Time, both in
71A2333, CONARC, RG 338, NARA; Rpt, CONARC, Mar 63, sub: Army Training
Center Conference, 71A1562, CONARC, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from FM 21–73, Combat Training of the Individual Soldier and
Patrolling, 1962, p. 113. CONARC Pam 515–3, Counterinsurgency, Counterinsurgency
Instructional/Training Material, 1962; FM 31–15, Operations Against Irregular Forces,
1961, pp. 46–47; FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, pp. 105, 112–16.
Infantry School, Ranger Training, 1961, pp. 12, 34, 73, 116 ; Hogan, Raiders or
Elite Infantry, pp. 147–48, 156–57; Historical Supplement, 1965, U.S. Army Infantry
School, 1966, pp. 9–10; Rpt, JCS 1969/212, 1 Jun 61, sub: Status of Development of
Counterguerrilla Forces, p. 1870.
25th Inf Div, Clear and Hold Operations, an. E, Army Troop Test ROAD Brigade
in Counterinsurgency Operations, 1965, pp. E-2 to E-4, Historians files, CMH; Rpt,
HQDA, U.S. Army Special Warfare Study and Program, FY 63–68, 1962, an. V; Scott,
Training of the Junior Leader, an. B. For examples of training, see Rpt, JCS 1969/330,
9 Apr 62, sub: Status of Development of Counterguerrilla Forces, pp. 37–39; “Exercise
Swamp Fox,” Infantry 54 ( May–June 1964): 50–51; Bruce Palmer, Jr., and Roy Flint,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
“Counter-Insurgency Training,” Army 12 (June 1962): 32–39; Memo, Lt Col A. Aakkula
for Commandant, CGSC, 24 May 62, sub: Trip Report, Yakima Washington (Exercise
Mesa Drive), p. 8. After Action Reports (AARs), Exercise Mesa Drive, Jun 62, p. 22;
Exercise Sherwood Forest, 32d Inf Div, 17 Jul 62, pp. 26–27, and see also pp. 3–4,
25–28, 43–44; and Exercise Seneca Spear, 2d Inf Div, 1962, pp. 1, 5, 14–15. Last three
at MHI. Annual Hist Sums, 1st Bn, 8th Inf, 1964 and 1965; Memo, 4th Inf Div for CG,
6th Army, 6 Nov 64, sub: Exercise Eastwind, 71A3439, RG 338, NARA.
Quote from FM 31–16, Counterguerrilla Operations, 1963, p. 116. 25th Inf Div,
Clear and Hold Operations, an. E, Army Troop Test ROAD Brigade in Counterinsurgency
Operations, 1965, pp. E-2 to E-4; Richard Terry, Guerrilla Warfare in Army Maneuvers
(Student paper, Infantry School, 1961).
Quote from 25th Inf Div, Twenty-fifth Division Jungle and Guerrilla Warfare
Training Center, 1962, n.p., CARL. Ernest Easterbrook, “Realism in Counterinsurgency
Training,” Army Information Digest 17 (October 1962): 12–21; 25th Inf Div, Training
Memo 9, Brigade Jungle Exercise 10–23 January 1962, 29 Dec 61, 17526.59A,
Quote from James Rast, “Highland Fox: The 2d Division’s Off-Post
Counterinsurgency Exercise,” Infantry 55 (May–June 1965): 49. Erik Villard, “Guerrillas
in the Mist: 4th Division Counterinsurgency Training Exercises in the Olympic National
Forest, 1963–65,” paper presented at American Military Experience in Asia Conference,
Madison, Wisc., Oct 98, pp. 5, 12, Historians files, CMH; Annual Hist Sum, 4th Inf Div,
1963, pp. 10–12, CMH; Jean Moenk, A History of Large-Scale Maneuvers in the United
States, 1935–1964 (Fort Monroe, Va.: Historical Branch, HQ, CONARC, 1969), p. 289;
Joint Exercise Coulee Crest, Final Report, 30 April–20 May 1963, p. 10, MHI; Hal
Lyon, “If the Cause Is Right,” Infantry 54 (March–April 1964): 52–53.
First quote from Andrew Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore, Md.:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 31. Second quote from Barber and Ronning,
Internal Security, p. 81.
Bowman, “Evolution of Army Doctrine,” p. 125; Doughty, Army Tactical
Doctrine, p. 29.
Memo, CDC Special Warfare and Civil Affairs Group for Chief of Staff, CDC,
18 Oct 65, sub: National Counterinsurgency Review, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA;
Maxwell Taylor, “The U.S. Government and Counterinsurgency,” AWC lecture, 11
Jan 66, p. 8, MHI; Rpt, Counterinsurgency Review Board, 1 Dec 65, sub: Report
of Committee II (Training), Counterinsurgency Review Board, 1 December 1965,
Counterinsurgency Training in U.S. Government Agencies, pp. II-1 to II-9, A-3 to A9, A-18, A-21, Maxwell D. Taylor Papers, National Defense University, Fort McNair,
Washington, D.C.
Putting Doctrine to the Test
The Advisory Experience
During the third quarter of the twentieth century, the U.S. Army
helped dozens of countries combat subversive movements. With the
exception of South Vietnam and, to a lesser extent, Laos, the Army
confined its activities to providing materiel and advice. Although U.S.
soldiers often found the task of working through others frustrating, they
could claim a considerable measure of success, for during this period
not a single U.S. ally—again with the exceptions of South Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia—fell to Communist insurgents. The experience
gave the Army ample opportunity to test its counterinsurgency and
nation-building doctrines.1
The Latin American Experience
Although the battle against communism was global, Latin America
was a prime area of U.S. concern. In 1959 Fidel Castro, a rebel who
later proved to be a Communist, overthrew a weak dictatorship in Cuba.
Stung by a Communist triumph so close to home and concerned that
Castro might make good on his pledge to spread the revolutionary virus
to the rest of the hemisphere, President Eisenhower initiated a counterinsurgency program for Latin America. Reflecting the traditional
notion that socioeconomic distress provided the breeding ground for
Communist agitation, Eisenhower allocated $500 million in 1960 to
promote improvements in health, education, and agrarian conditions
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
throughout Latin America. He attempted to supplement these civil programs with $96.5 million in military assistance, but Congress rejected
the military aid package. Latin American militaries had a long history
of antidemocratic behavior, and Congress was loath to strengthen their
coercive powers.2
When Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower in January 1961, he shared
Eisenhower’s and Castro’s belief that Latin America was ripe for revolution. The new administration also believed the region was ready to
participate in Rostow’s takeoff toward modernization. Consequently,
Kennedy followed Eisenhower’s lead in seeking political and economic,
rather than military, solutions to the problem of regional instability. In August 1961 representatives of the United States and nineteen
Latin American countries signed the Charter of Punta del Este, which
launched an ambitious hemispheric initiative called the Alliance for
Progress. The plan committed the signatories to investing $100 billion
in development projects over the next ten years, with $20 billion coming from the United States. The charter established specific goals in the
areas of economic growth, health, housing, and literacy. It also sought
to promote land reform, social justice, and democracy. In short, the
Alliance for Progress was a kind of Marshall Plan, a highly ambitious
program of economic growth and social engineering founded on a faith
in the ability of centralized planners and enlightened experts to remold
a continent. Certain of the outcome, the U.S. government confidently
predicted that the 1960s would be a “historic decade of democratic
progress.”3 (Map 10)
During the ten-year life of the Alliance for Progress the United
States dedicated roughly 92 percent of the aid it gave Latin America to
economic programs. Yet, like Eisenhower, Kennedy also believed that
military assistance had a positive role to play, and he urged legislators
to rescind the ban on providing internal security assistance to Latin
America. As Secretary of Defense McNamara explained, “the essential
role of the Latin American military as a stabilizing force outweighs
any risks involved in providing military assistance for internal security
purposes.” The administration found support for its position from a
growing number of academics led by Samuel P. Huntington, Morris
Janowitz, and John L. Johnson, who asserted that military establishments were prime vehicles for promoting modernization in third world
societies. Armed with such arguments, Kennedy succeeded in persuading Congress to allow the Pentagon to provide counterinsurgency training and equipment to Latin America.4
In November 1961 the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave President Kennedy
twenty-seven recommendations on how the U.S. military could support
Galapagos Is
Falkland Is
Map 10
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the Alliance for Progress, twenty-three of which had been put forth
by the Army. The thrust of the Army’s plan was to expand military,
police, psychological, and intelligence assistance while simultaneously
encouraging Latin American militaries to undertake significant civic
action programs. The Army also hoped to promote democratic and
constitutional behavior on the part of area militaries by bringing young
officers to the United States where they could observe how a modern,
professional, apolitical military organization functioned in a democracy. Kennedy enthusiastically endorsed the proposals, directing that
the Pentagon implement them on an accelerated basis.5
Not everyone was sanguine about the shift in U.S. policy. Many
civilians doubted the wisdom of strengthening the repressive powers
of Latin American governments, while the Agency for International
Development resented the infusion of military considerations into
developmental matters. The Pentagon’s Director of Military Assistance,
General Williston B. Palmer, also had reservations. He openly challenged the idea that the U.S. military should attempt to indoctrinate
foreign soldiers in democracy, economics, or even civic action. He
argued that such matters were beyond the Army’s professional competence and would merely expose it to charges of meddling in politics.
McNamara dismissed such reservations, yet in practice the military aid
program limited political training to civic action issues in deference to
foreign governments that objected to potential U.S. interference in their
domestic affairs.6
Although Latin America enthusiastically embraced the Alliance
for Progress, U.S. officials were frustrated by the fact that many area
governments seemed ambivalent about the threat of Communist subversion. Latin American skepticism, however, was not unwarranted.
True, unrest existed in various forms and active insurgencies existed in
about a dozen Latin American states. But in evaluating these threats,
Americans often underestimated the institutional strengths of area
governments and the many social, political, and cultural barriers to
revolutionary change.
Fortunately for U.S. interests, many Latin American revolutionaries
also underestimated these barriers. Inspired by the apparent ease with
which Castro had overthrown an unpopular and inept Cuban government, many revolutionaries adopted unrealistic expectations about their
ability to duplicate Castro’s accomplishment. Their misapprehension
was fueled by the Cubans themselves, most notably Castro’s lieutenant, Che Guevara. Guevara’s 1960 book On Guerrilla Warfare asserted
that a small military cell, or foco, could spark a wider revolution without waiting for optimum political conditions. His foco theory, which
American and Ecuadorian engineers discuss a road-building project in
1962 as part of the Alliance for Progress; below, Ecuadorian villagers
try out a new water pump built for them by U.S. Army and Ecuadorian
Army engineers.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
received further amplification and dissemination throughout Latin
America thanks to the literary efforts of the French Communist Regis
Debray, maintained that area Communists could jump-start the revolutionary process by moving directly into guerrilla warfare without first
engaging in the long and arduous task of building party organizations
and mobilizing public support. By subordinating the party and political considerations to military action, the foco theory essentially stood
Marxist-Leninist theory on its head.
Latin American leftists formed approximately two dozen foco-type
movements during the 1960s. In practice, the theory proved unworkable. Undertaking military action without having first mobilized at least
a portion of the population exposed insurgents to military countermeasures when they were relatively weak. Compounding the tenuousness
of the guerrillas’ links to the people was the fact that many insurgent
leaders were urbanites who were neither acclimated to the hardships
of campaign life nor attuned to the needs, aspirations, and character
of the rural population. More at home in university classrooms and
smoky cafes than in the bush, Latin American guerrilla leaders were
particularly prone to endless squabbles over ideology, strategy, and
personality that badly fractured their movements. Consequently, most
insurgent groups fielded no more than a few hundred guerrillas, and
not one came remotely close to success. The futility of the foco method
was finally demonstrated in 1967, when Che himself was killed in a
farcical attempt to spark a revolution in Bolivia.7
Che’s demise marked a turning point in the nature of Latin
American insurgency. External support for Latin American revolutionaries began to fade as first the Soviet Union and then Cuba
progressively disassociated themselves from the region’s floundering
insurgent movements. Moreover, while a few focos sputtered on into
the 1970s, the Latin Americans themselves began to change their
tactics. Some, disheartened by their failure to rouse the countryside,
returned to the cities where they resorted to a new form of revolutionary warfare, urban terrorism. Guided by the writings of Abraham
Guillen and Carlos Marighella, a new breed of radicals attempted to
keep the revolutionary dream alive through assassinations, bombings,
kidnappings, and robberies. These urban focos enjoyed some success,
but by the early 1970s they too had largely collapsed, partly because
their terroristic acts alienated local populations and partly because the
urban focoists were frequently no more interested in long-term political work than their rural cousins had been.8
More successful than the urban terrorists were a few groups that
ultimately rejected all forms of focoism in favor of a more balanced
Nicaraguan soldiers take part in a U.S.-assisted urban
counterterrorism exercise in 1969; below, a U.S. Army adviser (center)
observes Guatemalan soldiers practice riot control techniques.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
politico-military approach. These movements ultimately posed the greatest challenge to Latin American counterinsurgents, and in 1979 they produced the only successful Marxist insurgency in Latin America outside
of Cuba—Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution. Such movements were still
in their infancy during the period covered by this book, however, and did
not pose serious threats to most states. Indeed, the Sandinista Revolution,
like the Cuban, proved to be the exception rather than the rule. By the end
of the twentieth century no other Latin American country had fallen to a
Marxist-Maoist assault, while the Sandinista regime itself had given way
to a democratic government.
The languid performance of most Latin American revolutionaries
notwithstanding, they still created significant problems in the 1960s and
early 1970s, most notably in Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil,
Uruguay, and Peru. They could have proved much more dangerous
but for the countervailing effect of U.S. security assistance. Between
1950 and 1975, the United States trained over 28,000 Latin American
military personnel in the United States and at the U.S. Army School of
the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone. The latter school was especially important, as it eventually dedicated approximately 70 percent
of its Spanish-based curriculum to counterinsurgency-related subjects.
Meanwhile, the Agency for International Development trained several
thousand Latin American police officers either in the Canal Zone or
at the International Police Academy in Washington, D.C., while the
CIA provided intelligence assistance. The U.S. Army complemented
these efforts through a small number of military advisers backed over
the years by several hundred mobile training teams, many of whose
members were drawn from the Canal Zone–based 8th Special Forces
Group that formed the nucleus of the Army’s Latin American Special
Action Force.9
The advice proffered by U.S. soldiers during the 1960s and 1970s
closely followed the precepts laid out in U.S. manuals, many of which
the Army translated into Spanish. Army advisers urged area governments to develop cogent politico-military plans that attacked both the
guerrillas in the field and the socioeconomic conditions that spawned
them. They also recommended the establishment of bureaucratic
mechanisms to better coordinate and integrate the efforts of various
government agencies. Included among such devices were joint coordination centers that orchestrated the activities of police, military, and
intelligence agencies. First introduced in Venezuela by an Army training team, the joint center concept proved so successful that the United
States created a demonstration unit that marketed the idea to several
other countries.10
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
Representative of America’s approach to Latin American insurgency were the programs the United States developed to counter
instability in Colombia. In 1959 President Eisenhower responded
to an epidemic of social and political violence in Colombia by
dispatching a special mission to that troubled nation. The mission recommended that the Colombian government initiate the full
panoply of U.S. Army counterinsurgency measures, from increased
psychological, civil affairs, and intelligence activities to intensified
counterguerrilla training. It likewise suggested an array of programs
to restore public trust in the government by reducing corruption,
improving troop conduct, and enhancing government services. Based
on these recommendations, the Colombian government revamped its
counterinsurgency effort, initiating economic reforms and instituting
a Council of National Defense that coordinated the activities of the
military high command with those civilian ministries charged with
promoting economic development and social order. Still, many shortcomings remained, and in 1962 the United States provided additional
recommendations, first through a special study group led by General
Yarborough, and later by a two-man Special Forces team that helped
the Colombian military craft a comprehensive three-year program
called Plan Lazo.11
The Lazo plan closely followed the precepts of Army counterinsurgency doctrine. It called for tightened command and control over all
public security forces to ensure unified action, expanded psychological
and civic action activities to win popular support, and improved intelligence operations to ferret out the guerrillas and their clandestine agents
amid the people. To facilitate this last objective, the Colombian Army
created networks of paid informants and offered rewards for information. It also established mobile intelligence groups that integrated
military, police, and civilian intelligence activities at the local level and
special hunter-killer teams that exploited the correlated information to
kill or capture insurgent leaders.
True to U.S. Army doctrine, Plan Lazo assigned Colombian infantry brigades to geographical zones with the mission of clearing those
areas of an insurgent presence. Operating out of widely scattered
bases, small infantry units were to scour the countryside day and night
to keep the guerrillas on the run. Once one of these patrols had located
an irregular unit, Plan Lazo called for unrelenting pursuit to capture
or destroy the enemy, most likely by some form of encirclement.
To facilitate the execution of such highly dispersed yet aggressive
actions, the advisory mission pledged to help improve the Colombian
military’s performance, most notably through the provision of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
communications gear and vehicular transport, including twelve helicopters. Meanwhile, rigorous population- and resource-control measures, sweetened by civic action programs, would facilitate the return of
government authority to unruly regions. Helping to solidify these gains
would be newly raised police and paramilitary formations whose presence would both enhance local security and free the regular forces for
additional offensive operations. A series of U.S.-funded radio networks
that linked farms and villages to military reaction forces rounded out
the local security system. Though by no means perfect, the Lazo plan
provided Colombia with its comprehensive blueprint for an integrated
counterinsurgency campaign. By 1965 Colombia had greatly reduced
the amount of territory controlled by antigovernment forces.12
Not every country received as detailed assistance as Colombia, but
throughout the hemisphere U.S. Army advice was generally cut from
the same cloth—aggressive, light infantry operations to hunt the guerrillas, paramilitary formations to protect and control the population,
and intelligence, propaganda, and civic action measures to solidify
government gains. Guatemala applied such a formula to defeat leftist
guerrillas in the mid-1960s, while Peru successfully destroyed several
guerrilla base areas in 1965 by employing a series of phased encirclements reminiscent of those conducted in Greece and Korea. The U.S.
Army helped these and other nations develop a variety of special counterguerrilla formations that frequently spearheaded operations. One
such unit, a Bolivian ranger battalion, earned the distinction of killing
Che Guevara. Conversely, large-unit, conventional operations; heavy
artillery concentrations; and ponderous, road-bound formations played
little part in the Army’s program for Latin America.13
While American-style counterinsurgency methods succeeded in
keeping the hemisphere’s rural insurgents at bay, both the Americans
and their allies were unprepared to meet the shift to urban terrorism
that occurred in the later 1960s. Although the Army had procedures for
conducting combat, riot control, and cordon-and-search operations in
urban environments, U.S. doctrine had largely mirrored Maoist revolutionary thought by focusing on the countryside rather than the cities.
The criminal nature of urban insurgency, however, did not lend itself
to a military solution. Consequently, assistance in this area focused on
intelligence and police operations—areas that fell more under AID’s
Office of Public Safety and the CIA than the Army.14
Although several Latin American countries had developed civic
action concepts independently of the United States, America’s strong
endorsement of civic action proved influential in persuading them
to expand such programs. Guatemala was the first Latin American
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
A U.S. Army Special Forces adviser discusses tactics with Bolivian troops
prior to a counterguerrilla operation in 1967.
nation to accept a U.S. Army civic action advisory team in 1960, with
a full-time civic action adviser following in 1962. During the 1960s
civic action programs accounted for nearly a quarter of U.S. military
aid to Guatemala, and U.S. influence over the program was strong.
Guatemala’s leading counterinsurgency commander, Col. Carlos Arana
Osorio, attributed 70 percent of his success to civic action programs
that purportedly won the allegiance of local peasants by building roads
and feeding school children hot lunches.15
News of the Guatemalan program spread rapidly through the hemisphere, but not until the United States agreed to pay the majority of the
bills did the Latin American states show any real enthusiasm for enrolling in U.S. civic action programs. By 1965 thirteen Latin American
countries sported U.S.-funded civic action projects. In Ecuador U.S.
Army engineers helped supervise the construction of farm-to-market
roads. In Bolivia U.S.-financed engineer battalions built dozens of
schools, while in Colombia the military established health clinics.
Across the length and breadth of the continent, armies cleared jungles,
installed sewage systems, and inoculated children. In addition to helping to plan, provision, and execute such undertakings, the U.S. Army
distributed thousands of pamphlets describing improved agricultural
and health techniques. Advisory missions complemented these good
works by encouraging indigenous soldiers to treat civilians in a courteous manner.16
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Armed with reams of statistics about the number of pamphlets
distributed, roads built, and teeth cleaned, U.S. Army officials in the
early 1960s concluded that the civic action program in Latin America
had “unquestionably been successful.” In fact, the situation was murky.
Much good had been achieved, but the resources applied paled in
comparison with the hemisphere’s socioeconomic ills. Confusion and
disagreement over whether civic action projects should be substantive
or mere palliatives of a temporary and largely propagandistic nature
divided administrators and defused the program’s impact. Some AID
officials disdained military participation in developmental activities
and hindered the effort, while budgeting impediments and a shortage of
language-qualified specialists hampered effective execution.17
Problems on the American side were matched by shortcomings in
the recipient nations. Corruption and mismanagement plagued the execution of programs throughout the hemisphere. Moreover, U.S. advisers quickly learned that while giving a foreign soldier a bulldozer and
having him build a road with it was fairly easy, changing the way the
soldier thought and acted was much more difficult. American protestations notwithstanding, many area military and police establishments
insisted on employing torture, terror, and brutality to suppress political and social unrest. The situation actually worsened as the decade
progressed, as countries responded to the rise of urban terrorism with
terror campaigns of their own. One of the ironies of the period was that
Guatemala, which had won acclaim from U.S. officials for its pioneering civic action program, also amassed one of the region’s worst records
on human rights.18
Even when the philosophy of civic action was taken to heart, it
sometimes had unforeseen consequences. The most notable example of
this occurred in Peru, where military officers who were genuinely committed to civic action precepts overthrew the civilian government on the
grounds that the military was the only institution in Peruvian society
with the moral virtues and organizational skills capable of enacting
reforms. Other Latin American soldiers less sincere in their devotion
to civic action adopted similar justifications for meddling in domestic
politics, with the result that what had initially been billed as a “historic
decade of democratic progress” ended up being an era of heightened
military activism in regional politics. Between 1962 and 1973 no fewer
than sixteen coups rocked Latin America, and by 1974 more than half
of all Latin American countries were under military rule.
The wave of coups that swept the Western hemisphere was not the
product of U.S. internal security doctrine. Ultimately, indigenous factors played a far more important role in shaping the course of Latin
A U.S. Army adviser (second from left) accompanies El Salvadoran
Army medics on a medical civic action initiative; below, an American
soldier distributes propaganda in comic book form to Bolivian
children in 1966.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
America’s political development during the 1960s and 1970s than a few
hours of counterinsurgency instruction at the School of the Americas.
Nevertheless, U.S. military assistance clearly had not prevented area
militaries from adopting unpalatable practices. This fact, when combined
with the aforementioned difficulties experienced in the civic action
program, led an independent study group commissioned by the Army
in 1970 to conclude that “there are no records of specific achievement
of any one of the objectives of the Alliance for Progress by the Latin
American armed forces through civic action or other programs.”19
The study group’s findings were undoubtedly disappointing to the
Army, yet they should not have been surprising, for the Alliance for
Progress also fell far short of its goals. Ten years and tens of billions of
dollars worth of aid and investment had not yielded the results that U.S.
social engineers had so confidently predicted would occur. True, most
Latin American economies had grown, life expectancy had increased,
and many other positive achievements had been recorded. Yet little or
no change had taken place in the overall structure of Latin America’s
troubled socioeconomic and political systems. For the most part the
problems that might spark unrest—poverty, social immobility, racial
and ethnic prejudice, unrepresentative government, corruption, and
oppression—continued to flourish throughout the hemisphere.
The failure of the Alliance of Progress and its military component—civic action—to remedy Latin America’s many social and political ills muddied the doctrinal assertion that an insurgency could not be
defeated without development and reform. From one point of view, the
experience had validated this tenet, for the failure of area governments
to redress the underlying causes of discontent meant that unrest would
continue to percolate throughout Latin America for years to come. Yet
the fact that Latin American governments had succeeded in quashing one guerrilla movement after another without making significant
structural changes indicated that some counterinsurgency theorists had
gone too far in their assertions about the necessity of winning hearts
and minds. While reform was desirable and coercion only dealt with the
symptoms of a deeper social disease, the fact was that coercion could
indeed achieve the immediate goals of the counterinsurgent.20
Advice and Support in Vietnam
Although keeping the Western hemisphere free of communism was
a primary goal of American foreign policy, Latin America was a relative backwater for the U.S. Army compared to Southeast Asia. Here the
United States expended vast sums in a futile effort to stop Communist
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
insurgents in three countries—South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The Army’s involvement in each of these wars varied greatly, but
nowhere in Southeast Asia—or the world, for that matter—did the
United States expend more blood and treasure in the name of counterinsurgency than in the ill-starred state of South Vietnam.
South Vietnam was the product of the 1954 Geneva Accords that
terminated the Indochina War. The accords had split Vietnam along the
17th Parallel into a Communist-controlled north and non-Communist
south. The partition was meant to be temporary pending a vote on
reunification, but the elections were never held. Instead, what emerged
were two sovereign, antithetical states.
After a few years of relative peace, Viet Minh agents, dubbed Viet
Cong by South Vietnamese authorities, initiated an insurgency designed
to bring down the southern government and reunify the country under
Communist rule. Building upon the teachings of Mao Tse-tung as well
as their own experiences in the French Indochina War, the Viet Cong
created a parallel government, or infrastructure, that exercised de facto
control over large areas of rural South Vietnam. Through this organization, the Viet Cong intimidated opponents, collected taxes, and raised
recruits for guerrilla bands that over the course of several years matured
into a three-tiered system of hamlet militias, regional guerrilla units,
and quasi-regular “main force” battalions, regiments, and divisions.
Together, these forces waged an enervating war of terror, raid, and
ambush that severely challenged the southern government’s control
over the countryside. North Vietnam directed the effort, providing cadres, supplies, and eventually soldiers that it infiltrated into the South
through Laos and Cambodia, weak neutral states that offered ready
sanctuaries for Communist forces.
President Ngo Dinh Diem’s Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
was poorly positioned to parry the threat. Years of colonial domination
had bequeathed it a languid economy and a weak administrative system that barely extended into the countryside. Unlike the Communists,
whose highly motivated, locally recruited cadres lived and worked
among the people, South Vietnam was dominated by men drawn from
the country’s urban and educated classes who often had little sympathy
for the peasantry and generally opposed any reforms that might undermine their power. Instead, corruption, nepotism, and inefficiency hampered the government, while deep social, ethnic, and religious fissures
plagued the countryside.21 (Map 11)
Overcoming these obstacles was a daunting task, but over the years
Diem succeeded in creating a personal political machine that held his
rivals in check. With the help of American largess, Diem kept South
Da Lat
Corps Tactical Zone (CTZ) Boundary
150 Miles
Map 11
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
Vietnam afloat and even managed to initiate a few reforms, including a
modest land redistribution initiative. Meanwhile, he moved to destroy
Communist influence in the countryside. He replaced local officials
with government appointees, established pao chia–style neighborhood
watch and reporting systems, relocated populations, and hunted down
Communist cadres with a special intelligence organization that used
torture to achieve its ends.22
Diem’s state-building efforts scored some successes during the mid1950s. Yet they fell far short of effecting permanent change. Likewise,
Diem’s occasional use of Draconian measures, when combined with his
imposition of officials chosen for their loyalty rather than their talent,
alienated the very people over whom he was trying to gain control.
If the regime’s bungling retarded the nation-building process, so too
did the Viet Cong, who worked assiduously to thwart the government
at every turn. Communist agitators and spies penetrated virtually every
town, hamlet, and government agency in South Vietnam. When they
could not achieve their ends peacefully, they did not hesitate to kidnap
or kill anyone who stood in their way. By 1961 the Viet Cong had assassinated thousands of people and forced the government to abandon over
600 rural schools, thereby stripping the fledgling regime of what little
presence it had in the countryside. Meanwhile, thanks to its ability to
inspire and intimidate the rural population, the Viet Cong gradually
escalated its terror campaign to include attacks on isolated garrisons,
military convoys, and pro-government villages. In 1959 the Communist
Party of Vietnam formally initiated the second, or guerrilla, phase of
its Maoist-style insurgency, and, by the time of Kennedy’s election in
November 1960, South Vietnam’s security forces were beginning to
crack under the strain of an accelerating guerrilla campaign.23
The job of pacifying the countryside fell to the security forces
Diem had inherited from the French, an assortment of military and
paramilitary organizations bereft of any overarching command or
administrative structure. With the French rapidly phasing out their presence in Vietnam following the Geneva Accords, Eisenhower decided
to undertake the job of transforming this motley assemblage into an
effective fighting force. He did so despite warnings from Army Chief
of Staff General Ridgway and the rest of the Joint Chiefs that such an
undertaking would be “hopeless” unless “a reasonably strong, stable,
civil government” existed first.24
The first chief of the U.S. military aid mission to Vietnam, Lt. Gen.
John W. O’Daniel (1954–1955), charted a course that was not dissimilar to that followed by other U.S. advisory groups during the 1940s and
1950s. Like his counterparts, O’Daniel was faced with the dual task of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
South Vietnamese troops search for insurgents.
preparing South Vietnam to meet both conventional and unconventional
threats—namely an invasion from the North and internal instability in
the South. As his contemporaries had done in other countries, O’Daniel
adopted the existing array of military and paramilitary organizations as
the basis upon which to build a multilayered security system. Security
began at home with the Self-Defense Corps, a part-time militia that
mobilized civilians to defend their villages against guerrilla raiders
and Communist cadres. Backing the local militia was the Civil Guard,
which consisted of company-size units deployed on a provincial basis to
perform rural constabulary and security functions. Finally, at the top of
the security system was the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, a loose
collection of military units inherited from the French that O’Daniel
proposed to transform into ten infantry divisions, thirteen independent
territorial regiments, and an airborne regiment backed by an array of
administrative, logistical, and combat support elements.
Though based on American precepts, the South Vietnamese Army
was not a carbon copy of the U.S. Army. Unlike the U.S. Army, whose
organizational structure focused almost exclusively on the conduct
of conventional warfare, only four of South Vietnam’s ten divisions
were conventional “field” divisions. The remaining six divisions were
“light” divisions that, together with the territorial regiments, were
designed primarily for internal security work. Moreover, U.S. planners
deliberately created a relatively austere force in deference to South
Vietnam’s difficult topography, limited transportation infrastructure,
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
and modest technical and logistical resources. Thus, the field divisions
were half the size of a standard U.S. infantry division and included
only one battalion of artillery, a stark contrast to the four artillery battalions typically found in a U.S. division. The light divisions were even
leaner—merely one-third the size of a U.S. division. These formations
had few trucks and no artillery heavier than the 81-mm. mortar. In this
way, the advisory group sought to endow the South Vietnamese Army
with a structure that was capable of performing both counterguerrilla
and limited conventional operations over Vietnam’s varied terrain.25
O’Daniel recognized the civil aspects of the South Vietnamese
Army’s mission, and he requested that Colonel Lansdale be detailed to
Vietnam to orchestrate the aid mission’s civic action and psychological operations advisory programs. As the mission’s chief pacification
adviser, Lansdale blended local methods with his own experiences
in the Huk rebellion to craft a program for the reclamation of Viet
Cong–dominated areas. Following Viet Minh and French precedents,
he established civic action cadre teams under the control of a Civic
Action Directorate. Clad as peasants, the teams accompanied troops
into Communist-controlled areas, where they sought to win the allegiance of the population by sponsoring a variety of small-scale socioeconomic programs. The cadres disseminated propaganda, distributed
food and medicines, and encouraged the peasants to undertake a variety
of self-improvement projects, such as digging wells, repairing roads,
and building dispensaries.26
When Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Williams became chief of the Military
Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, in October 1955, he fretted
that the light divisions would be unable to contribute effectively to
the nation’s defense should the North Vietnamese invade, and he did
not like the idea of a small country like Vietnam maintaining two different divisional organizations. Therefore, in 1958 he persuaded the
South Vietnamese to reorganize their army into seven standardized
divisions. Although somewhat larger than the original field divisions
and equipped with two artillery battalions, the new divisions remained
keyed to the Vietnamese environment.27
Despite the fact that the South Vietnamese Army was supposed to
be equally adept at regular and irregular warfare, neither O’Daniel nor
Williams paid much attention to the special aspects of counterguerrilla
warfare. Part of the reason for this was that both men were preoccupied
with the Herculean task of creating a viable military organization in a
new and unstable country. The fact that the Viet Cong did not initiate
serious guerrilla activity until the late 1950s reinforced the advisory
group’s conventional orientation, as did Williams’ view that to teach
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
specialized missions to an army that had yet to master the fundamentals of military organization and operations was pointless. Like many
American officers, Williams firmly believed that a thorough inculcation in the basics of individual soldiering and small-unit tactics was
the best possible preparation for any type of combat, conventional or
unconventional, and consequently during the 1950s the advisory group
concentrated on these subjects.28
Williams did not, however, completely ignore counterguerrilla
warfare. In December 1955 he gave Diem a short paper outlining his
thoughts on counterinsurgency. After reviewing the Maoist approach to
guerrilla warfare, Williams noted that “military operations alone are not
sufficient for success as there are really two objectives: the destruction
of the guerrilla force and the elimination of the Communist influence
on the civil population. An over-all plan at Government level embracing
political, psychological, economic, administrative and military action is
necessary for success.” The ultimate goal of such a plan was to deny
the guerrillas the human and material resources they needed to survive,
whether these were drawn from the population or from an external
source. While a keen intelligence service and aggressive military action
using patrols and encirclement tactics drove the guerrillas away from
populated areas toward their eventual disintegration and destruction,
Williams called for the intelligent implementation of the “old principle
of reward and punishment” to control the behavior of the population.
In implementing such a program, he emphasized the importance of
proper conduct on the part of civil and military officials, since “harsh,
unjust, arbitrary action or mass punishment of innocent people, for the
misdeeds of a few, will drive more people into the guerrilla ranks.” By
executing an aggressive military campaign that was “in harmony with
the political, psychological, and economic policies,” he believed South
Vietnam could eventually slay the Communist dragon.29
Williams’ 1955 paper was in full accord with U.S. Army doctrine,
and he transmitted similar recommendations throughout his tenure as
MAAG chief (1955–1960). In 1957 MAAG, Vietnam, translated into
Vietnamese all U.S. Army guerrilla and counterguerrilla manuals. The
following year Williams circulated additional guidance in the form of
a memo titled “Notes on Anti-Guerrilla Operations.” This document,
which was lifted virtually verbatim from the 1951 edition of FM 31–20,
Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, succinctly reiterated the basic
principles of U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine, including the
desirability of an integrated politico-military approach and the necessity of cutting the guerrillas off from the population via aggressive
military action, restrictive control measures, and counterinfrastructure
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
operations. The memo also encouraged advisers to promote training in
subjects conducive to improved counterguerrilla performance. MAAG,
Vietnam, reinforced these suggestions by developing counterguerrillatraining curriculums in 1958 and 1959 and by reissuing the “Notes” in
Although U.S. doctrine acknowledged that small, specially trained
units were often more effective in irregular warfare than large, conventional formations, Williams discouraged Diem from creating sizable
numbers of elite formations on the grounds that such units would drain
army battalions of their best personnel and impede the overall organizational effort. Diem ignored this advice and in 1960 formed special
antiguerrilla units called rangers. Faced with a fait accompli, the United
States agreed to provide Special Forces personnel to train the new units,
which Diem formed by stripping each infantry battalion of one of its
four companies. The rangers proved effective soldiers but were often
misused as garrison and strategic reserve troops. Moreover, by creating
the rangers, Diem had reduced the effectiveness of his line battalions,
since a battalion with four rifle companies was more effective in nonlinear, area-style warfare than one with three. Unfortunately, American
recommendations regarding the restoration of the fourth rifle company
went unheeded.31
Regardless of how the South Vietnamese Army was organized, it
could not operate effectively under any circumstances unless it had first
been effectively trained. This proved to be a difficult task. Manpower constraints and linguistic and cultural barriers impeded MAAG, Vietnam’s
efforts, as did the South Vietnamese Army’s tendency to assign mediocre
personnel as instructors. Compounding these difficulties was the lackadaisical attitude that some Vietnamese officers displayed toward professionalism in general and training in particular. Many had served in the
French Army and dismissed American advice as coming from ignorant
and pushy newcomers. Others were political appointees who believed
that their careers depended more on political alignments than military
performance. Caution, intrigue, and plodding staff work, not initiative
and combat experience, were the tickets to promotion, and, under such
circumstances, U.S. advisers had difficulty convincing Vietnamese
officers to take training seriously. Finally, even the most diligent officer
could claim with some justification that the press of operational requirements prevented effective training. Dispersed among innumerable small
outposts, South Vietnamese units often lacked the time and manpower
to devote to training, and as the guerrilla menace grew, the situation got
worse. By 1959 the government had committed 57 percent of its infantry
to either pacification or static security missions. The drain caused by
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
these assignments meant that one-third of all infantry battalions did not
undergo any type of training that year. This situation placed grave strains
on the army’s immature administrative and logistical systems, strains that
proved just as disruptive to the development of the South Vietnamese
Army as they had to the development of the South Korean military just
a few years before.32
The comparison was not lost on Williams. In Korea, the Communists
had used guerrilla warfare to sap the strength of their opponents before
staging a major conventional invasion to reunify that divided country.
The parallels to Vietnam appeared all too menacing to neglect, and
consequently Williams attempted, as his predecessors had in Korea, to
minimize the army’s involvement in internal security functions. Only
by giving the army a respite from enervating garrison and pacification
duty could it truly develop the professional competence it needed to
become an effective organization. Thus Williams opposed suggestions
that South Vietnamese troops perform civic action work, not because
he failed to recognize the importance of winning popular support,
but because he felt that the conscript’s twelve-month tour of duty was
barely enough time to train and utilize him in his military functions.
Diverting the conscript to perform manual labor would merely exacerbate the army’s serious training deficiencies.33
To free the South Vietnamese Army for additional training,
Williams hoped to rely on the paramilitary forces to shoulder the
lion’s share of the internal security burden. In this his actions mirrored
those taken by U.S. military advisers in Greece and Korea, but he was
doomed to frustration. A tight ceiling limiting the number of U.S. military advisers and a philosophical decision on the part of the U.S. government that police forces were a civil, not military, concern meant that
MAAG, Vietnam, had little influence over South Vietnam’s police and
paramilitary forces. Instead, the United States contracted out the paramilitary advisory function to Michigan State University. The Michigan
group was oriented primarily toward traditional police functions and
generally neglected the quasi-military aspects of internal security.
Moreover, the group proved unequal to the difficult job of improving
the image of the nation’s police forces, whose ineffectiveness, brutality,
and corruption alienated them from the people.34
In 1957 U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Elbridge Durbrow
rebuffed Williams’ offer to extend military assistance to the Civil Guard
and Self-Defense Corps, choosing instead to withhold material assistance from the paramilitaries altogether until Diem agreed to make certain concessions regarding their organization. The three-way donnybrook
between Diem, Durbrow, and Williams over the paramilitary forces
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
meant that those forces languished unattended during the first critical
years of the insurgency. The inability of the civilian security apparatus to
protect the nation’s people and resources from the Viet Cong thus created
a vicious and downward-pulling spiral. Growing instability compelled
the South Vietnamese Army to devote an ever-increasing share of its
resources to internal security functions. This diversion impeded its professional development, which in turn made it less capable of combating
the Viet Cong, hence leading to even greater instability.35
In 1960 Williams’ successor, Lt. Gen. Lionel C. McGarr, attempted
to reverse this sequence of events. McGarr came to Vietnam from the
Command and General Staff College, where, as the school’s commandant, he had played an active role in reviving Army counterinsurgency
doctrine, an effort that would soon come to fruition in the 1961 editions of FM 100–1 and FM 31–15. Shortly after arriving in the South
Vietnamese capital of Saigon, McGarr committed his thoughts on
counterguerrilla warfare to paper in two memos—“The Anti-Guerrilla
Guerrilla” and “Implementing Actions for Anti-Guerrilla Operations.”
In these widely distributed tracts, McGarr reiterated Williams’ call
for an integrated politico-military campaign, as well as for the imaginative adaptation of conventional techniques to Vietnamese conditions.
He also reminded his readers that counterguerrilla warfare was just as
much an ideological struggle as it was a military one, and he particularly stressed the importance of protecting the population from Viet
Cong intimidation because unless people felt secure they would never
provide the type of intelligence the government needed to root out the
insurgents. Finally, McGarr used the papers to outline a strategy for
countering the insurgency problem.
To cut the Viet Cong off from their North Vietnamese brethren,
McGarr proposed the creation of a cordon sanitaire, or “firebreak,”
along Vietnam’s borders, where the entire population would be evacuated and anyone found inside the restricted zones could be killed.
Meanwhile, in the interior, he advocated a strategy of progressive area
clearance on the “oil spot” model. To implement this strategy, McGarr
developed an operational concept that he labeled the net and spear.
Under this concept, the South Vietnamese government would assign
infantry units to specific operational areas where they would soon gain
an intimate knowledge of the local military and political topography.
Once established, these units would break down into innumerable small
patrols that would act like a “net” to catch and destroy any small enemy
units operating in the area. Should the “net” catch a large guerrilla
formation, the patrols would shadow their quarry until larger reaction
forces—the “spear”—could strike and destroy the ensnared guerrilla
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
band, most likely through some form of encirclement action. After the
army had succeeded in clearing a sector of guerrillas using the net-andspear method, it would turn the defense of the area over to the paramilitaries and move on to clear another area, repeating the process until all
of South Vietnam was free of guerrilla activity.36
After publishing these ideas in November 1960, McGarr formed
a combined U.S.-Vietnamese team to expand them into a more robust
document. The resulting product was a handbook titled Tactics and
Techniques of Counterinsurgent Operations. Continuously revised and
updated by the allies, the handbook provided comprehensive guidance on the insurgency in South Vietnam. Included among its pages
were background information on the land and its people, a review of
Viet Cong tactics, and suggestions to advisers on how they could best
perform their functions. Although certain sections were lifted from the
British manual Conduct of Anti-terrorist Operations in Malaya, the
majority of the manual related standard U.S. doctrine, augmented by
insights derived by advisers and their Vietnamese counterparts.
The handbook encouraged its readers to be flexible and to remember that what worked in one situation might not be appropriate in
another. It recommended that commanders employ ruses and deceptions to beat the guerrilla at his own game. Among the tricks suggested
by the manual were employing pseudo-guerrillas to masquerade as
Viet Cong, concealing troops in seemingly innocuous vehicles, and
using small outposts and patrols to bait the insurgents into launching an
attack, while nearby reserves lay in wait to pounce on the unsuspecting
By 1963 new editions of the handbook had begun to use the phrase
clear and hold to describe pacification operations. The manual’s
authors likewise kept abreast of new techniques as they were developed, including the “eagle flight,” a type of heliborne patrol and strike
operation. While terms and tactics might change, the handbook continued to adhere to the underlying concept of progressive area clearance.
It likewise retained statements regarding the importance of political
factors. Thus the manual called for the humane treatment of prisoners and civilians, as well as for remedial actions to redress the causes
of dissent, reminding its readers that “at all times the requirement to
ultimately separate the people from the insurgents, and induce them to
support the local government must dominate every action.”37
During his tenure as MAAG chief (1960–1962), McGarr supported
the establishment of an overarching Counterinsurgency Plan as a means
of bringing greater cohesiveness to allied activities. The plan, which
President Kennedy approved shortly after his inauguration, called for
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
a carefully integrated political, military, economic, paramilitary, and
police campaign to eliminate the Viet Cong and establish firm government control. To achieve this end, the plan recommended that the South
Vietnamese government establish a National Security Council, with parallel councils at every level of administration. The Counterinsurgency
Plan also endorsed more functional command and control arrangements and laid the groundwork for revitalizing Vietnam’s paramilitary
forces by transferring U.S. funding and advisory functions for those
formations from American civilian agencies to the Pentagon.38
While U.S. authorities prodded Diem to energize his counterinsurgency apparatus at the national level, they also undertook to create
an ever more elaborate scaffold of military and civilian advisers with
which to prop up the tottering regime. During his first year in office,
Kennedy tripled the number of military advisers in Vietnam, from 900
to over 3,000. Still this seemed insufficient, and a special study team
headed by General Taylor and Walt Rostow recommended in November
1961 that the president commit 8,000 combat troops to Vietnam.
Kennedy balked at sending combat formations but accepted Taylor’s
recommendation that the United States provide not only more advisers,
but entire units of combat support personnel. This represented a major
escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese civil war.39
In December 1961 the first major U.S. Army units arrived
in South Vietnam in the guise of the 8th and 57th Transportation
Companies, whose thirty-two helicopters were intended to give the
South Vietnamese new mobility. Their arrival, together with the infusion of a growing number of other operational units, necessitated a
change in command arrangements in Vietnam. On 8 February 1962,
the Pentagon created a new entity, the Military Assistance Command,
Vietnam, to supervise the activities of MAAG, Vietnam (which MACV
eventually absorbed), and the growing number of support units sent to
bolster the South Vietnamese. By the time of Kennedy’s death in 1963,
the United States had deployed approximately 16,000 military personnel to Vietnam.
One group of U.S. soldiers not initially under MACV control were
small teams of Special Forces personnel sent into Vietnam’s hinterlands
to rally ethnic minorities to the anti-Communist cause. Operating initially under the CIA, the Special Forces teams worked primarily with
South Vietnam’s Montagnard population, conducting civic actions,
building fortified villages, and raising a paramilitary defense force—
the Civilian Irregular Defense Group—to protect the Montagnards from
the Viet Cong. By the time MACV assumed control over the program in
1963, Special Forces had raised 51,000 paramilitary troops.40
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
As Special Forces expanded its presence among the Montagnards,
so too did the Army increase its support of the rest of South Vietnam’s
security establishment. In 1961 MAAG, Vietnam, assigned advisers to
South Vietnamese battalions and authorized them to accompany these
units into combat. Manpower limits prohibited a similar arrangement
for paramilitary formations, but in 1961 the Army finally began to
rearm and train the heretofore neglected Civil Guard and Self-Defense
Corps—soon to be renamed Regional Forces and Popular Forces,
respectively. Efforts to strengthen the government’s ability to secure
its people from Communist intimidation received an added boost in
1962, when Saigon announced the formation of a National Police force
to be advised and trained by AID and the CIA. Meanwhile, the United
States pressed the Vietnamese to accept a greater American presence in
the countryside through the guise of military advisory detachments at
the province (1962) and district (1964) levels. These advisers involved
themselves in the full panoply of counterinsurgency endeavors. They
correlated and disseminated information in province and district intelligence coordination centers, drew up operational plans and pacification
schemes, assisted local paramilitary forces, and provided advice on a
wide range of civil matters, from agronomy to digging wells. Indeed, in
contrast to advisers posted to military units, the Army’s provincial and
district advisers spent about 50 percent of their time on civil issues.41
While the advisory framework kept the South Vietnamese government intact, MACV worked to improve the performance of combat units. By 1962 Army advisers had reoriented all of the South
Vietnamese Army’s training programs to counterguerrilla warfare. As
had been the case during the 1950s, FM 31–20 (1951) and subsequent
U.S. Army manuals heavily influenced the new training materials.42
In these materials and in their conversations with their counterparts,
the Americans urged the South Vietnamese to abandon the “Maginottype defensive attitude” inherited from the French and to employ fire
and maneuver to find, fix, fight, and finish the enemy. Having learned
from experience that linear sweeps by large formations rarely succeeded in bringing the enemy to battle, the Americans recommended
that the South Vietnamese limit such undertakings to situations where
intelligence was poor or a known base area needed to be combed.
Otherwise, the Army preferred that the South Vietnamese employ
extensive small-unit patrols as part of a wider clear-and-hold strategy.
Such operations, the Army believed, offered the best way of keeping an
area clear of enemy forces for a prolonged period. Small-unit infantry
tactics, ambush and counterambush drills, march and camp security,
patrolling, raiding, and village search techniques thus formed the core
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
of the training program. American training materials also taught the
South Vietnamese to employ traditional encirclement tactics to effect
the enemy’s destruction, supplemented by the new techniques of airmobile warfare. U.S. advisers particularly emphasized night operations,
and thanks to their efforts South Vietnamese regulations required that
50 percent of all tactical training be conducted at night. Conversely,
advisory personnel also believed that the nature of the terrain and the
enemy largely negated the value of large armored formations and heavy
air and artillery bombardments, and therefore such tactics received subsidiary treatment in American-drafted training materials.43
While the training program focused on tactical issues, U.S. advisers
were also careful to stress that the “most delicate and important job” of
counterguerrilla warfare was isolating the guerrillas from the people,
a task that the Americans believed required that the South Vietnamese
Army gain the “trust, confidence and support of the people by showing
in deeds as well as words that military forces do, in fact, help support
and defend the people.” Consequently, training materials emphasized
the importance of good troop behavior and civic actions while discouraging uncompensated foraging, looting, and indiscriminate shooting. In
fact, advisers warned the Vietnamese that “fire power is a double-edged
weapon in a ‘peoples’ war,” and that it must be carefully controlled to
avoid undue harm to the population. For this reason, MACV recommended that unobserved artillery fire only be employed in areas that
either were devoid of friendly civilians or were known to support the
Viet Cong.44
Although General Williams had not been enthusiastic about diverting South Vietnamese soldiers to civic action work, his successors made
it an increasing priority. The Army started sending civic action teams
to Vietnam shortly after Eisenhower authorized the concept in 1960,
and by 1962 these teams, together with a newly established civil affairs
adviser within MAAG, Vietnam, had persuaded the Saigon government
to reinvigorate its sagging civic action program. In 1963 the Army reinforced this effort by posting civic action and psyops advisers down to
the division and province level. It also initiated what was perhaps the
most popular combined civic action program of the war—the medical
civic action program (MEDCAP). Under MEDCAP, teams of American
and Vietnamese medical personnel traveled the countryside providing
free services to civilians. By 1965 MEDCAP teams had dispensed over
4.5 million treatments in their effort to win over the Vietnamese people
by treating their illnesses.45
Few soldiers believed that communism could be defeated by inoculations alone, and therefore the Army also communicated less benevolent
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
ways of controlling the behavior of
Vietnamese civilians. These ranged
from relatively passive measures,
like taking a census, to more intrusive restrictions over the movement
of people and goods. When such
measures were insufficient, South
Vietnamese doctrine also permitted soldiers to destroy villages,
livestock, and crops, heavy-handed
techniques that could well backfire
if not exercised with care.46
By the early 1960s America’s
prescription for South Vietnam
was fairly well in place. At the
national level, U.S. civil represenA U.S. Army medic treats a
tatives pressed for reforms and
Vietnamese child as part of the
economic development backed
medical civic action program.
by more efficient administrative
mechanisms to produce a well-integrated politico-military campaign.
U.S. military advisers supported these efforts and sought to reinforce them by encouraging proper troop behavior and civic actions.
Operationally, the Army counseled an aggressive campaign in which
military units, freed from garrison work by the development of more
efficient police and paramilitary forces, would take to the field to drive
the guerrillas away from the population, thereby laying the basis for the
gradual expansion of government control throughout the country. Over
the years, both the Vietnamese and the Americans would tinker with
this formula, adopting new organizational structures, dropping failed
initiatives, and generally adjusting their activities to the ebb and flow
of the war. Yet the core goals would remain fundamentally unchanged.
Perhaps the best example of this continuity of purpose despite outward
changes in organization and nomenclature had to do with the village
security program, a program that lay at the core of all South Vietnamese
pacification initiatives.47
Following precedents established by both sides during the Indochina
War, the South Vietnamese government had always favored the idea of
using traveling teams of officials to extend its control over the countryside. Lansdale’s civic action teams were just the first example of numerous cadre schemes employed by the government over the years. Although
the organization, composition, and mission of these teams varied, in
general they all sought to organize local governments, form paramilitary
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
defense groups, and otherwise rally the people to the government’s cause
through a combination of propaganda and civic action programs. Since
the government lacked sufficient military forces to be everywhere at
once and since many Vietnamese villages were not readily defensible,
the government also adopted early on the idea of relocating people to
places more readily controlled by the government. Such relocation and
fortification schemes served the dual purpose of enhancing the security
of the Vietnamese people while draining the countryside of the human
sea on whom the guerrillas depended for their survival.
Although U.S. military advisers recognized the desirability of
increasing the security of the population, the Vietnamese themselves
took the lead on this issue. Based on French colonial precedents, Diem,
without consulting the United States, began organizing defended hamlets, dubbed “agrovilles,” in 1959. Three years later he launched an even
more ambitious scheme when, inspired by British activities in Malaya,
he initiated the Strategic Hamlet Program. Like the agrovilles, the primary purpose of the strategic hamlets was to separate the people from
the guerrillas, although the program also paid lip service to the notion
that the new hamlets would become vehicles for introducing improved
amenities like schools and dispensaries. In theory, the strategic hamlets
were to be constructed in an orderly fashion in accordance with an
expanding oil-spot area security approach, though this was not observed
in practice. The program lasted until 1964, only to be replaced by a succession of similar programs under different names, all of which sought
to bring greater security, control, and public services to the countryside
through the fortification of old villages and the establishment of new,
more defensible ones.48
None of the many military and pacification initiatives launched by
South Vietnam in the early 1960s succeeded in stemming the Communist
tide. Saigon continued to resist American-proffered reforms, while corruption, incompetence, and a general lack of leadership at all levels
impeded the execution of those programs the government attempted
to undertake. Insufficiently trained cadres, inadequate resources, and
poorly executed security measures likewise combined to undermine
the various village defense schemes, many of which were unpopular
as they imposed hardships and moved people away from ancestral
lands. What gains were made were largely wiped out in late 1963 with
the assassination of Diem, whose death initiated a year and a half of
political turmoil that severely undermined most pacification programs.
Even in the best of times, rivalry and poor communication between
government ministries greatly impeded the prosecution of the counterinsurgency campaign. The magnitude of the problem was shown by the
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
South Vietnamese civilians build fortifications around their hamlet.
fact that by 1965 the government was fielding twenty-seven different
types of pacification cadres and fifteen different armed forces, few of
which were inclined to cooperate with the others.49
Meanwhile, the bureaucratic wrangling within the South Vietnamese
government was complicated by similar divisions within the U.S. government. The result was that various U.S. agencies ended up pushing
upon the South Vietnamese a plethora of competing initiatives that
diffused the counterinsurgency effort, overburdened South Vietnam’s
already strained administrative apparatus, and reinforced the innate
parochialism exhibited by Vietnamese institutions. Moreover, while
most U.S. officials broadly accepted the basic tenets of counterinsurgency theory, they differed sharply on how best to implement them. The
differences were myriad, but the divisions were not always drawn along
bureaucratic lines. Indeed, one could usually find soldiers and civilians
on each side of any particular issue.50
Perhaps the debate that had the most serious consequences for the
prosecution of the war was that over the relative priority to be accorded
to military versus political action. Civilian agencies tended to emphasize nation building and reform as the sine qua non of pacification,
sometimes going so far as to assert that it should take precedence over
the military campaign. This had been Ambassador Durbrow’s philosophy, and many others shared this belief. MACV and most of the military establishment, on the other hand, tended to place military issues
first. While acknowledging the ultimate importance of political affairs,
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
the military argued that most civil initiatives would go for naught until
some semblance of security had been achieved. As General Williams
explained, “the truth is the population of South Vietnam, like any other,
is more responsive to fear and force than to an improved standard of
living. The conclusion is clear: the paramount consideration is to gain
and maintain a superiority of force in all parts of the country. This is
done by developing the military and police potential as the most urgent
objective of our national program in Vietnam.” McGarr agreed, stating that “while this is a Politico-Military situation, it has reached the
stage where it must be recognized that a military solution must come
before the political can be meaningful.” Subsequent advisory chiefs
adopted similar positions, as did some prominent civilians, including
Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and senior pacification official Robert
W. Komer. Nevertheless, the argument over whether political or military issues should receive the most emphasis was never fully resolved.
When coupled with bureaucratic rivalries and personal jealousies, the
debate impeded American efforts to put forward a coherent program. It
also resulted in much wasted effort, as overly optimistic expectations as
to the seductive power of material goods and internal improvements led
allied agencies to dispense aid indiscriminately among the Vietnamese
people. All too often the recipients were no more loyal after they had
received American largess than they had been before, either because
their loyalty could not be bought or because the government’s inability
to secure them from Viet Cong retaliation made risking one’s life in
exchange for a free medical exam impolitic.51
The dissipation of America’s sizable nation-building effort on fallow or insecure ground was not the only factor impeding the effectiveness of the government’s civic action program. Just as important were
impediments embedded within South Vietnamese society. Many South
Vietnamese officials found civic action work demeaning. Enlisted men
were equally uninterested in performing civic action, in part because
the army’s poorly housed and paid soldiers saw little virtue in doing
good deeds for people who in many cases were not only better off than
they, but were actively helping the enemy as well. Ultimately, too many
bureaucrats exhibited haughty and self-aggrandizing behavior, too
many soldiers shot and foraged indiscriminately, and too many policemen engaged in extortion for the government’s American-financed
civic action programs to make a significant difference in the course of
the war.52
These shortcomings in pacification might have been overcome by
effective military action, for, although the government had failed to win
the support of the population at large, a growing number of people were
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
As in many insurgencies, war and peace shared an uneasy
coexistence in South Vietnam.
also becoming disenchanted by the Viet Cong’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for food, money, and recruits. The military was, however,
unable to stamp out the insurgency.
In the opinion of U.S. soldiers, the South Vietnamese Army’s
inability to contain the Viet Cong stemmed not from weaknesses in
U.S. doctrine, but from the army’s failure to implement American
advice. There was much to substantiate such a view, as the Vietnamese
diluted or ignored many American recommendations. Regulations
notwithstanding, Vietnamese officers seldom trained or operated at
night. They generally did not feel inclined to embrace calls for vigorous, offensive action, preferring instead the relative safety of their
cantonments. Their passivity—exacerbated by heavy security commitments—dissipated the army’s strength, sapped its morale, and ceded the
initiative to the enemy.53
When they did act, South Vietnamese commanders favored caution over initiative and imagination. They clung to roads rather than
delve into the bush and habitually returned to their bases each evening
rather than remain in the field, thereby violating the principles of continuous contact and relentless pursuit. Vietnamese commanders also
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
generally ignored admonitions that they saturate the countryside with
small-unit patrols, preferring instead to operate in battalion or larger
groups. These large-unit formations typically undertook ponderous
linear sweeps toward fixed terrain objectives that the nimble guerrillas
easily avoided. Once such an operation was completed—and 65 percent
of South Vietnamese operations of battalion-size or larger lasted no
more than one day—the troops would depart, leaving the Viet Cong
to reassert their control over the recently “cleared” countryside and its
Encirclement operations likewise usually failed to catch the enemy
due to inadequacies of execution, the exigencies of terrain, and the
excellence of the enemy’s espionage service. Similarly, when the
Vietnamese did make contact with the enemy, they usually failed to
apply effectively American combined arms, fire, and maneuver concepts. Rather than closing aggressively with the enemy in the Fort
Benning tradition, Vietnamese commanders preferred to sit back and
let supporting air and artillery fires do the work of the infantryman.
This might have worked had the South Vietnamese employed such
tactics effectively, but all too often poorly executed operations allowed
the enemy to escape potential firetraps. Moreover, government artillery
resources were so limited and widely dispersed that they were rarely
in a position to deal the enemy a decisive blow. In fact, a 1965 study
indicated that the South Vietnamese Army rarely employed more than
two artillery pieces at a time, with approximately half of all fire missions expending six or fewer rounds of ammunition. Under such circumstances, government artillery strikes served more as warning shots
than as agents of destruction.55
While the government floundered, the Viet Cong prospered. From
3,000 guerrillas in 1959, the Viet Cong grew to 30,000 full-time regulars and 80,000 militiamen by 1965. To these, North Vietnam was rapidly adding thousands of regular soldiers and tons of military supplies.
Thanks to the infusion of modern Soviet and Chinese materiel, by the
mid-1960s Communist main force troops had more firepower at their
disposal than the average South Vietnamese infantryman, let alone the
more poorly equipped paramilitary soldier.56
Outfoxed, outmaneuvered, and increasingly outgunned, by the
spring of 1965 the South Vietnamese government was losing the
equivalent of one battalion and one district capital a week. With about
half of South Vietnam already in Communist hands and with no end
to the deterioration in sight, MACV Commander General William C.
Westmoreland concluded reluctantly that the United States had no
choice “other than to put our finger in the dike.” President Lyndon B.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Johnson concurred, and in March 1965 he deployed the first ground
combat units to Vietnam. Four years later, U.S. troop strength in theater
would peak at 543,000 men.57
America’s direct military involvement succeeded in stopping the
hemorrhage and in inflicting significant losses on the enemy. Yet the
war continued as the North Vietnamese offset allied deployments with
troop infusions of their own. Then, in early 1968, the Communists
struck back with a major offensive that, while initially successful, was
ultimately repulsed with heavy casualties. The failed Tet offensive
proved to be a turning point in the war. As had occurred in Korea
in 1950, many southern cadres had come out of hiding to assist the
general offensive, and when that effort collapsed, they became vulnerable to allied countermeasures. Moreover, local Viet Cong forces bore
the brunt of the offensive, and their high casualties left the village
Communist apparatus dangerously exposed. The resulting weakness of
the local Communist infrastructure, when combined with the increasing
reluctance of a war-weary population to support a cause whose chances
for victory now seemed much diminished, meant that the Communists
had to rely increasingly on force and intimidation to obtain men and
sustenance from the population, a situation that further eroded their
popularity with the people.58
The United States recognized the opportunity and moved to exploit
it. Assisted by the shock that the 1968 offensive had given senior
South Vietnamese leaders, the United States succeeded in coaxing the
government to make some significant reforms. Included among these
were a more effective manpower mobilization system and a major land
reform initiative that by 1973 had distributed roughly 2.5 million acres
of land to previously landless peasants. Meanwhile, MACV redoubled
its efforts at improving the security situation. With the Viet Cong reeling from their defeat, MACV was able to shift the weight of the allied
military effort into operations that directly supported pacification. The
result was that government control over the countryside steadily grew
after 1968, with the Communists receiving a concomitant decline in
One element that contributed to the government’s improved performance after 1968 was a series of measures undertaken between 1964
and 1967 to reduce the bureaucratic wrangling that had often undermined allied pacification efforts. After the government consolidated
its many cadre and village fortification schemes into a coordinated
Revolutionary Development program in 1965, the United States put
its own house in order by placing MACV in charge of most U.S. pacification support activities.60 This step, which was in full accord with
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
the Army’s long-established view that unity of command and politicomilitary coordination were essential in counterinsurgency, was fiercely
resisted by civilian agencies as an unwarranted erosion of their institutional autonomy. Nevertheless, the establishment of a single manager
for pacification in the guise of the Office of the Assistant Chief of
Staff for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support
(CORDS) improved the orchestration and presentation of U.S. advice
and assistance on pacification-related programs. Headed by a civilian
who served as a deputy to the MACV commander, CORDS’ militaryheavy staff applied itself to nearly every aspect of pacification, from
civic action and propaganda to amnesty programs and paramilitary
CORDS particularly championed MACV’s traditional viewpoint
that security was essential to pacification, and it devoted the vast
majority of its resources toward improving the day-to-day safety of
Vietnamese civilians through a variety of police, paramilitary, village
defense, and counterintelligence programs. Through its auspices, the
government’s paramilitary forces, which usually equaled or exceeded
the South Vietnamese Army in numbers, grew in capability, eventually
achieving parity with the Viet Cong in terms of weaponry. In conjunction with AID and the CIA, CORDS also redoubled U.S. efforts at
inducing South Vietnam’s police and intelligence agencies to ferret out
the Communist infrastructure through an initiative called the Phoenix
program. The resilience of the Viet Cong underground and continued
disarray in the government’s police, judicial, and intelligence systems
limited the Phoenix program’s achievements. Nevertheless, through
the cumulative weight of military and counterinfrastructure activities,
the South Vietnamese and their U.S. allies gradually whittled away
the strength of the Viet Cong. By 1973 U.S. analysts estimated that
southerners constituted only about 17 percent of all Communist combat
troops and 50 percent of all enemy administrative and service personnel
in South Vietnam. What had once been a flourishing southern-based
insurgency had given way to a faltering war effort whose continued
prosecution was possible only by the infusion of men and materiel from
North Vietnam.62
While South Vietnam had made significant headway in squelching
the insurgency after 1968, its achievements were not without serious
blemishes. To begin with, many of the reforms proffered by the South
Vietnamese government proved to be hollow. Despite decades of prodding, South Vietnam’s leaders were no more effective in 1974 than
they had been in 1954. With the exception of the belated land reform
law, the government had made little progress in alleviating the nation’s
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A South Vietnamese Army cultural drama group woos villagers as part of
the battle for the hearts and minds of the population.
many social ills. What progress had been made was largely offset
by ravaging inflation fueled by U.S. military spending. Meanwhile,
military actions on both sides had killed and maimed over a million
civilians and dislocated millions more. Some of these refugees had
willingly fled their homes to escape the Communists. The allies had
forcibly relocated others—several hundred thousand over the course
of the war—to separate them from the guerrillas. The vast majority
of refugees, however, were people who left their homes to avoid the
hazards posed by military operations. Ultimately, over half of South
Vietnam’s population left their homes at some point during the conflict, a situation that imposed enormous burdens on the country and
compelled the allies to divert much of their nation-building resources
to humanitarian relief.63
Problems pertaining to the civil side of the war were matched by
deficits on the security side, where once again ostensible gains proved
superficial. Sixteen thousand advisers and vast quantities of materiel
could not easily correct the harmful effects of continued maladministration within the ranks of South Vietnam’s security services. More
often than not, the government’s military victories after 1965 had been
achieved as the result of the application of American combat power,
rather than through the actions of the government’s security apparatus.
Even the improved level of security enjoyed by a growing number of
civilians was not all that it seemed. For despite the allies’ stated goal of
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
bringing security to the people, in reality a large proportion of the people added to the rolls of those living in “secured” areas were refugees
who had relocated—either voluntarily or otherwise—from Viet Cong
areas into government-controlled enclaves. Many of these people were
impoverished, so that while their ability to aid the enemy was restricted,
few could be counted as enthusiastic subjects of the government. Senior
U.S. and Vietnamese officials were cognizant of this fact and attempted
to direct psychological and humanitarian programs to relieve suffering
and build greater support for the government among the people, but all
too often the resources were inadequate and the government’s administrative machinery too frail, corrupt, or uncaring to carry out this policy
All of these shortcomings might not have been important had the
allies been able to cut the insurgents off from their northern benefactor.
Isolated from external support, the southern insurgents could no more
have survived allied military and security programs than the guerrillas
of South Korea or Greece before them. Such isolation was not achieved,
however, with the result that the South Vietnamese government was
never able to secure large sections of the countryside. The decision by
the United States and South Vietnam’s other allies to withdraw their
combat forces in the early 1970s without having first evicted the North
Vietnamese from South Vietnam thus left the Saigon government in
an extremely precarious position. From an all-time high of twenty-two
allied divisions, by 1973 South Vietnam had only its own thirteen divisions left to face the eleven divisions and twenty-four regiments North
Vietnam still maintained in the South.65
Had the government made better use of two decades worth of
American support it might have been able to survive. Instead, the proficiency of nearly all South Vietnamese military, paramilitary, police,
and intelligence services declined noticeably with the withdrawal of
U.S. advisers and support units. Crash efforts by MACV prior to the
withdrawal to improve South Vietnam’s military capability so that it
could stand up to the North Vietnamese Army likewise fell short, in
part because, as General Williams had feared, years of relatively static
and disjointed territorial security duty had kept the South Vietnamese
Army from developing the type of command, control, and administrative apparatus needed to conduct large-scale conventional operations on a sustained basis. Once the United States began to curtail
its financial and material assistance, South Vietnam’s days were
numbered. The final blow came in 1975, when the North Vietnamese
Army overran South Vietnam in a lightning offensive led by tanks
and heavy artillery, an offensive not unlike the one which had almost
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
extinguished South Korea a quarter-century before. Williams’ nightmare had finally come true.66
The Asian Experience Outside Indochina
The triumphal entry of North Vietnamese troops into Saigon in
April 1975 was the last act of the thirty-year civil war that had racked
Indochina since 1945. Shortly before South Vietnam’s denouement,
the two other non-Communist states that had emerged from the old
French colony—Laos and Cambodia—also fell to indigenous guerrillas backed by North Vietnamese regulars. Although the civil wars in
Indochina accounted for the lion’s share of America’s overseas counterinsurgency expenditures between 1955 and 1975, the United States
had also worked to staunch the flow of revolution throughout the rest
of Asia. The degree of American activity and the methods used varied
from country to country, but for the most part U.S. soldiers acted in
accordance with the basic principles embodied in U.S. doctrine.
Throughout Asia, U.S. officials preached a creed of social and
economic modernization, military civic action, and, when necessary,
counterguerrilla warfare. In Southwest Asia, Army advisers enthusiastically supported Turkey’s use of its armed forces as a school of
the nation. Under this program, the Turkish military taught conscripts
how to read and write as well as technical skills, like typing and automotive mechanics, that they could use after completing their military
service. Even more impressive was the Iranian military’s civic action
program. Initiated by U.S. advisers in the 1950s, the program represented a broad-spectrum use of the military as a nation-building
agent. In addition to constructing roads and providing disaster relief,
the Iranian military strove to improve its public image by eliminating corruption and brutality from within its ranks. It also posted
civic action officers to every battalion in the army and created three
special organizations—the Literacy, Sanitary and Health, and Rural
Development Corps—that worked to improve the life of the ordinary
Iranian. Together with the counterguerrilla tactics taught by U.S. military advisers, the Iranian civic action program helped the shah pacify
rebellious tribes and push forward an ambitious program of land
reform, industrialization, and modernization. So effective was the
Iranian program that the U.S. Army considered it a textbook example
of American principles in action.67
Unfortunately, the actual results of American-sponsored civic
action programs were less notable. In Turkey, discharged conscripts
trained as typists frequently returned to villages devoid of typewrit328
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
ers. Meanwhile, the shah of Iran’s strenuous efforts to transform his
country into a modern, industrialized, and Westernized society eventually created a cultural and religious backlash that resulted in his
overthrow in 1979 and the establishment of a radical Islamic republic
that was extremely hostile to the United States. Much to the chagrin
of U.S. theorists, neither the shah’s ambitious land reform program
nor his patronage of a rising middle class saved him from the violent
social forces unleashed by the modernization process.68
The situation in East Asia was equally mixed. American-backed
developmental programs frequently succeeded in promoting modernization, but all too often failed to redress the underlying factors that
might spawn unrest. U.S. social engineers were particularly unsuccessful in promoting democracy, social equality, and apolitical military
institutions. Ruthless action rather than reform crushed Indonesia’s
Communists, while the hollowness of Magsaysay’s reforms and the
corruption of his successors led to a renewed Communist insurgency
and ethnic rebellions in the Philippines in the late 1960s, conflicts that
continue to the present day.69
The circumstances in South Korea were somewhat different.
There, rapid modernization engendered social dislocations that, when
coupled with festering tensions between rightists, leftists, and proponents of greater democratization, seemed to create fertile ground for
Communist activity. On the other hand, the nation’s growing prosperity,
when linked with the effects of a land reform program that by 1966 had
virtually eliminated tenant farming, produced a mixture of complacency and pride that dampened revolutionary sentiment.
Although an indigenous Communist underground movement
persisted in South Korea, it had never recovered from the defeats of
1948–1953 and lacked the ability to overthrow the government on its
own. Recognizing this fact, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung had continued
to send agitators into the South, either by sea or by land across the heavily defended Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separated the two Koreas.
By the mid-1960s these actions had failed to undermine the Seoul government, and consequently Kim decided to press the issue further. He
escalated military activity along the inter-Korean border and increased
the infiltration, not just of individual agents, but of entire units of
saboteurs and guerrillas, into the South. In addition to taking direct
action against the U.S.-led United Nations contingent that guarded the
DMZ, Kim hoped the infiltrators would form the nucleus of a renewed
insurgency that would drive the Americans out of Korea, undermine
the staunchly anti-Communist government of President Park Chung
Hee, and pave the way for the reunification of the peninsula under
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Communist control. With the United States increasingly distracted by
the war in Vietnam, the time seemed opportune.70 (Map 12)
After thirteen years of relative quiet guarding the inter-Korean border, the U.S. Eighth Army received a rude introduction to Kim’s revived
ambitions on 2 November 1966, when North Korean troops ambushed
a U.S. patrol south of the Demilitarized Zone, killing six Americans.
As the infiltrations escalated, additional clashes occurred in the spring
of 1967. While northern infiltrators ambushed U.S. and South Korean
patrols, mined roads, and bombed an American barracks near the DMZ,
others moved farther south in an effort to link up with indigenous
Communists and spark renewed peasant uprisings.
Although UN defenses along the border were well suited to blunting
a conventional attack, South Korea’s rugged terrain and long coastline
made stopping small bands of infiltrators exceedingly difficult. On the
other hand, the commander of UN forces in Korea, U.S. Army General
Charles H. Bonesteel III, enjoyed several advantages over General
Westmoreland in Vietnam. South Korea’s border with the North, while
mountainous, was well mapped, heavily guarded, and only about 243
kilometers long. Moreover, thanks to a system worked out during the
Korean War, Bonesteel had operational control over the South Korean
Army. This arrangement gave him much more latitude and authority than Westmoreland in shaping indigenous actions. Although not
without its problems, South Korea was also a much more homogenous
nation than South Vietnam, with an abler military, a stronger governmental apparatus, and a history of successful counterinsurgency operations. These factors, when coupled with the overall weakness exhibited
by the South’s indigenous insurgent movement, would place South
Korea on a very different course from its sister Asian republic.
Bonesteel adopted a twofold approach to the irregular threat. The
first element was to tighten security along South Korea’s borders. In
addition to stepping up patrol, ambush, and counterinfiltration training, he erected a new defensive barrier just behind the DMZ. The new
barrier consisted of a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, behind
which lay a dirt strip to reveal footprints and a defoliated zone to provide improved observation and fields of fire. High tech sensors, minefields, observation posts, and regular patrols backed by rapid reaction
forces rounded out the system. Although it could not stop every enemy
incursion, the barrier presented hostile intruders with a daunting, multilayered gauntlet that greatly increased the ability of UN forces to thwart
While Bonesteel was fairly successful in sealing South Korea’s border, he was less successful in stopping infiltration by sea. Twenty-eight
Tu m e n
Demilitarized Zone
Pujon (Fusen)
Changjin (Chosin)
Suiho Reservoir
3 8 ϒ PA R A L L E L
g R
Map 12
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
U.S. soldiers patrol the barrier fence bordering the
Korean Demilitarized Zone.
times the length of its land frontier, South Korea’s coastline presented
infiltrators with many havens. A barrier system was out of the question, and the small South Korean Navy did not have the means to patrol
Korea’s heavily trafficked coastal waters effectively. Moreover, unlike
the Demilitarized Zone, which was essentially an Army preserve, the
protection of Korea’s coasts was complicated by the fact that it was of
necessity an interagency affair, in which South Korean military, police,
intelligence, and political entities all needed to cooperate. Such cooperation took time to achieve. Eventually South Korea would develop
a multilayered coastal anti-infiltration system that employed aircraft,
ships, radar, coast watchers, village defense units, and military reaction forces. Though increasingly successful at detecting infiltrators, this
system was never as tight as that developed along the DMZ.71
Side by side with efforts to stop infiltrators was a second major
element, a counterinsurgency campaign in South Korea’s interior.
Here Bonesteel’s influence was less direct. Although his position as
UN commander gave him operational control over the Korean armed
forces during periods of conflict, Bonesteel generally confined himself to providing advice when managing Korea’s internal war. Such
a stance reflected both respect for Korean sovereignty and American
reticence about becoming directly involved in the internal affairs of
other nations. It likewise mirrored command arrangements during the
first Korean insurgency of 1948–1954, as well as similar arrangements
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
South Korean troops debark from a U.S. Army helicopter during a counterguerrilla operation in South Korea in 1968.
in South Vietnam, where the United States devoted the majority of U.S.
military might to the conventional battle while letting the indigenous
government bear the burden of pacification. With the exception of
KMAG advisers and a few Special Forces training teams, Bonesteel
would keep the U.S. Army in Korea firmly fixed along the DMZ to
face the external threat posed by the North Korean Army and its special
infiltration units.72
Many of the problems South Korea experienced during the initial
phases of the insurgency mirrored those from the 1948–1954 period.
As in the 1940s and 1950s, the Korean police bore primary responsibility for the counterguerrilla war, as the bulk of South Korea’s
Army was deployed along the border. And, as in that first conflict,
rival police, intelligence, and military bureaucracies initially waged
an uncoordinated campaign in which ad hoc task forces chased after
guerrillas on a piecemeal basis. Drawing on both their own experiences as well as American advice, the Koreans gradually moved to
correct these deficiencies. They mobilized rear area security divisions
from the reserves and created special counterinfiltration battalions
to assist in maintaining security in the interior. In 1969 the Koreans
added two ranger brigades to their force structure, deploying one each
to the two traditional hotbeds of insurgent activity in South Korea,
the Taebaek and Chiri mountains. Meanwhile, the government resurrected two institutions from the first guerrilla war—the combat police
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
and the civilian paramilitary forces. South Korea’s paramilitary forces
consisted of 200,000 unarmed coast watchers and an armed element
known as the Homeland Defense Reserve. Built around a core of
ex-servicemen, the homeland defense force numbered approximately
two million men and women. The force guarded villages, provided
intelligence, and mobilized the citizenry in support of the government. Finally, Park created mechanisms to ensure greater cooperation
among his disparate security elements. The United States supported
these endeavors with advice, training, and an infusion of new equipment, to include radios for paramilitary units.73
While Bonesteel worked to strengthen South Korea’s security
apparatus, he did not neglect the softer side of counterinsurgency
work—pacification. With American assistance, the South Korean
Army revitalized its long-standing civic action program. Government
troops dug wells, constructed schools, and undertook other actions to
win the favor of the rural populace. Of particular note were the “medical/enlightenment teams,” which traveled the countryside dispensing
pills and propaganda in an effort to inoculate the population against
communism. Meanwhile, in 1968 the South Korean government began
building a series of “reconstruction villages” south of the Demilitarized
Zone. Populated by armed ex-soldiers and their families on the model
of Israeli kibbutzim, these settlements created yet another obstacle
through which would-be infiltrators would have to move before they
could attack Korean society at large. The United States also supplemented the venerable Armed Forces Assistance to Korea program with
new initiatives designed to foster friendship between Koreans and U.S.
By the end of 1969 the war against Kim Il Sung’s second major
attempt to subvert the government of South Korea had been won.
Progressively fewer infiltrators succeeded in penetrating South Korea’s
land and sea barriers, while Korea’s intelligence agencies, backed by a
widespread network of military and police patrols, civilian informers,
and paramilitary groups, snagged many of the remaining interlopers.
Although the North had scored some stinging blows against the United
States, ambushing some patrols, capturing the U.S. Navy intelligence
ship Pueblo in 1968, and downing a U.S. Navy aircraft in 1969, it had
failed to destabilize the Park regime. In a campaign that had largely followed the basic precepts of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, the United
States and South Korea successfully thwarted Kim Il Sung’s attempt to
turn the Republic of Korea into a second Vietnam.
While U.S. advice must be credited with a win in South Korea, the
situation was murkier in Thailand. As one of the few nations in Asia to
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
have escaped colonial rule and the ravages of world war, Thailand did
not appear to be a strong candidate for Communist subversion. Thai
culture was not conducive to revolutionary activism, and Thailand’s
Communist Party had little mass appeal. Nevertheless, Thailand was
neither exempt from the stresses of modernization nor devoid of social
problems. Economic disparities, oligarchic rule, limited opportunities for social mobility, and ethnic tensions offered conditions suitable for exploitation. Of these, the last was especially important. The
Communist Party Thailand (CPT) was itself dominated by people of
Chinese extraction, while many of the social and economic injustices
that existed in Thailand fell most heavily upon the ethnic minorities
who lived along Thailand’s borders. Indeed, in many respects the insurgent threat in Thailand was not so much a national movement as it was
a collection of several loosely connected, regionally centered insurgencies composed primarily of ethnic minorities, most notably Meo
tribesmen in the north, Laotians and Vietnamese in the northeast, and
Muslims and Malays in the south. The limited appeal of revolutionary
propaganda among ethnic Thais would ultimately prove to be one of the
insurgency’s greatest weaknesses.75 (Map 13)
Inspired by the revolutionary philosophy of Mao and Ho Chi Minh,
the Thai Communist Party moved progressively in the early 1960s
toward launching a revolutionary struggle. With the help of China and
North Vietnam, which provided training and arms, the CPT officially
embraced a strategy of rural revolutionary warfare in 1961. In 1962 the
Communist Party established a remote jungle headquarters in northeastern Thailand and stepped up efforts to create a united front with
other dissident groups against the government.
Anxious to prevent the Communist contagion that was sweeping
Indochina from engulfing Thailand, the United States urged the Thai
government to take prophylactic measures against the nascent insurrection. Although few Thai officials shared America’s sense of urgency,
they were favorably disposed to Anglo-American counterinsurgency
theories that emphasized socioeconomic development and improved
security. Labeled Civilian-Police-Military, the Thai program recognized the importance of crafting a well-integrated national response to
the threat of insurgency. As the order of the words implied, the Thais
believed that civilian and police measures took precedence over military action, with economic development playing the preeminent role as
both prophylactic and cure for the Communist malaise.76
In 1962 Thailand created a National Security Command to coordinate and direct government-wide counterinsurgency efforts. The
command’s primary instruments in the emerging battle for the hearts
Area of Communist Activity
Chiang Mai
Dong Hoi
Udon Thani
Muang Ubon
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Map 13
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
and minds of the Thai peasantry were several American-funded Mobile
Development Units. Each unit consisted of about 120 civilian and
military technicians who brought social, economic, and construction
services to insurgency-prone areas. Thailand also created a civilian
Department of Community Development in 1962 that sent government workers into the countryside to address local needs. Other civilian agencies soon joined the outreach program, as did the Royal Thai
Army, which in 1963 established the first of several Special Operations
Centers, 84-man units that supplemented their border patrol work with
civic and psychological actions. Still, the focus of U.S.-Thai efforts
remained firmly in the civil sphere, with AID and the CIA lavishing
considerable attention on the Thai National Police and its elite subelement, the Border Patrol Police, which like the Special Operations
Centers sought to gain control over the nation’s fractious borders
through a combination of intelligence, security, and civic activities.
In 1965 the United States reinforced these efforts by funding an
Accelerated Rural Development program. The program’s primary focus
was road building, but it also supported a variety of other initiatives,
including farmer co-ops, youth activities, mobile medical teams, and
potable water projects.77
Unfortunately, none of these measures succeeded in preventing the
development of an insurgency in Thailand. In 1965 Thai Communists
declared a people’s war of liberation and initiated guerrilla attacks on
security forces. The outbreak of violence shocked both the Thais, who
had downplayed the threat of an overt insurgency, and the Americans,
who had believed that the prescribed civil-police approach was working. Disturbed, the allies redoubled their efforts. The government created a Communist Suppression Operations Command to coordinate
civilian, police, and military activities at the national level, while subordinate regional and provincial organizations performed similar functions in areas of active insurgency. It organized Joint Security Centers
to coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence. With the help
of American largess, Thai security forces continued to expand their
nation-building activities, building 150 schools, 463 kilometers of road,
101 bridges, 49 irrigation canals, 21 wells, 2 regional development centers, and scores of medical aid stations by 1968. Finally, at American
urging, the Thais greatly increased efforts to provide security to the
population living in insurgent areas. In some cases this meant encouraging people to leave guerrilla-infested regions. In others, particularly
in the north, the government forcibly resettled civilians. Most importantly, AID and the CIA worked to expand the number and capability
of Thai police and paramilitary forces.
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A Thai Mobile Development Unit accompanied by an
American adviser visits a village.
Initially, the government relied primarily on the police rather than
the military to combat the insurgents. The police arrested suspects,
established stations in remote villages, and conducted short-duration
sweeps. Still the insurgency grew, and by 1967 the army was playing
a more active role. In the northeast, the Thais attempted to surround
guerrilla base areas with paramilitary-secured villages backed by rapid
reaction forces. In the north, the military adopted a more punitive
approach, attacking villages and burning crops. In all guerrilla areas
the army conducted occasional search-and-destroy operations, usually
on a small scale but occasionally in division strength. These activities
frequently failed to produce decisive results. A lack of aggressiveness
hampered operations, as did the Thai government’s distaste for suffering casualties. When fighting the Meo, whom the Thais regarded
as savages, the military was also prone to engage in heavy-handed
tactics that alienated the population. Moreover, the army’s interest in
the counterguerrilla war was spasmodic, as the military still preferred
to let the police and civic action programs carry most of the burden.
Conventional defense duties, coupled with the fact that Thai authorities kept much of the army tied down around Bangkok as countercoup troops, further constrained military activities, as did financial
considerations that limited the amount of time Thailand could afford
to put its soldiers in the field. The result was that prior to the early
1970s, the army never committed more than 25 percent of its strength
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
to counterinsurgency activities. Most military operations were of short
duration and failed to establish an effective government presence in
guerrilla regions.78
In 1973 student and labor unrest in Bangkok introduced a period of
greater democracy in Thailand. The experiment was turbulent, however,
and failed to produce any reduction in the insurgent movement that had
grown steadily from a few hundred guerrillas in 1965 to around 6,500
combatants by 1974. Thanks to Chinese aid, the guerrillas were well
led, well trained, and frequently better armed than government troops.
The situation took a further turn for the worse in 1976, when a coup
ushered in a reactionary regime that reversed Thailand’s tentative steps
toward a more democratic system. Thousands of leftist and prodemocracy students fled to the bush, swelling insurgent ranks to over 12,000
guerrillas. Though the government remained in control throughout
most of the country, the war was clearly not going well.79
The United States provided military assistance to Thailand through
the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, which in 1962 was subordinated to the Military Assistance Command, Thailand (MACTHAI).
By the late 1960s the American presence in Thailand had grown to
about 49,000 military personnel, the vast majority of whom provided
logistical and air support for the wars in Laos and Vietnam. Other than
performing limited civic action activities around their bases, most
Americans played no role in Thailand’s internal disorders. The U.S.
Army’s contribution to Thailand’s internal defenses included an engineer battalion that built roads, a psychological operations company
that performed propaganda work, and about 130 advisers who helped
train the Royal Thai Army for both conventional and counterguerrilla
missions. In 1966 the Army also posted a Special Forces company in
Thailand to provide counterinsurgency training to army and police personnel. Although U.S. advisers were permitted to accompany Thai units
during field operations at the battalion level, they did so as observers
only, and except for a brief period in 1966–1967 when U.S. Army helicopter pilots flew transport missions, U.S. military personnel did not
participate in internal security operations.80
The advice American military officials gave Thailand generally
conformed to both U.S. national counterinsurgency policy and U.S.
Army doctrine. Mirroring the tenets of contemporary counterinsurgency philosophy, U.S. military officers accepted the notion that the
best way to respond to Thailand’s incipient insurgency was through a
coordinated, government-wide program of socioeconomic development backed by improved police, paramilitary, intelligence, and military systems. Thailand’s conventionally oriented officer corps initially
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
A U.S. adviser instructs Thai soldiers in counterguerrilla warfare.
showed little interest in counterinsurgency, but with JUSMAG’s help
the Thais established a counterguerrilla training program based on
American models. Recognizing that “machines of war can conquer
land, but communist ideology aims at conquering people,” JUSMAG
emphasized the importance of integrated politico-military operations,
in which police, military, and intelligence activities would be blended
with population-control and civil improvement measures to separate the
population from the guerrillas. Small-unit patrols, ambushes, deception, and night operations formed the backbone of JUSMAG’s tactical
precepts. On the other hand, JUSMAG warned in 1961 that “massive
uses of firepower . . . large armored formations and air bombardment;
and massive logistical support to include heavy wheeled, track and air
transportation” were “not useable in anti-guerrilla warfare.”81
The Army’s influence was limited, however. Graham Martin, the
U.S. ambassador to Thailand from 1963 to 1967, was anxious to avoid
an over militarization of American policy in Thailand, a phenomenon
that he and many other civilians believed had occurred in Vietnam.
Consequently, Martin made the CIA the lead agency in most counterinsurgency matters. Moreover, unlike many other ambassadors in
the 1960s, Martin moved beyond the rather loose coordinative efforts
of most country teams and imposed a single manager for American
counterinsurgency programs in Thailand. Although the Army traditionally supported greater unity of effort, in this case the arrangement
worked to limit its influence. Martin appointed a veteran CIA official
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
with experience in Vietnam, Peer de Silva, as his special assistant for
counterinsurgency, and together they kept a tight rein over American
military activities in Thailand. They severely limited contact between
U.S. officers and senior Thai officials and restricted MACTHAI’s
involvement in Thai counterinsurgency programs. Thus, while U.S.
Army personnel acquainted the Thai Army with American doctrine,
they had comparatively little direct influence on the broader course of
the counterinsurgency campaign.82
Many embassy civilians considered the tethering of the U.S. military
establishment in Thailand to have been a bureaucratic triumph. It did not,
however, spare the counterinsurgency effort from discord. Civilian agencies were just as jealous of their bureaucratic prerogatives as the military,
and their deep resentment of the single manager concept eventually led to
the abolishment of the special assistant for counterinsurgency post after
only a few years. Furthermore, in Thailand as elsewhere, U.S. officials
soon found that the national consensus over counterinsurgency was broad
but not deep, and throughout the 1960s U.S. diplomatic, intelligence,
economic, and police personnel were constantly at loggerheads with each
other over the details of the Thai campaign.
Bureaucratic rivalries among U.S. officials were matched by similar
tensions among the Thais. The creation of coordinative bodies notwithstanding, Thai government agencies frequently expended more energy
maneuvering for power and prestige than they did fighting the enemy.
The resultant discord between competing political, philosophical, and
bureaucratic agendas produced a confusing medley of overlapping
and competing programs. By 1974 the Thai government had launched
approximately 120 different socioeconomic development programs,
initiated 12 major security initiatives, and organized 20 different types
of paramilitary forces. As in South Vietnam, such a cacophony of programs merely dissipated the impact of U.S. aid.83
Continuous infighting was not the only problem. As in all advisory
experiences, U.S. soldiers and diplomats were often frustrated by the
unwillingness of Thai officials to take their recommendations to heart.
Despite American advice and their own doctrine, Thai security forces
occasionally abused civilians, fired indiscriminately, and demonstrated
other undesirable behaviors. Inertia, funding limitations, and programmatic problems likewise had adverse roles to play. Yet the lackluster performance of the Thai campaign also revealed some defects in U.S. policy.
If the U.S. government’s inability to impose discipline over its
counterinsurgency programs was one aspect of the problem, America’s
efforts in Thailand also suffered from the opposite defect, a tendency
of many officials to apply a single, universal formula regardless of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
local circumstances. In Thailand, efforts by U.S. civilians to impose
their view that insurgency was largely a civil and police, not a military,
problem ran headlong into the hard realities of Thai politics, which
demanded the careful balancing of rival bureaucratic interests, particularly between the army and police. Failure to adjust to this reality
caused many U.S.-backed programs to wither on the vine.84
Many of the assumptions of U.S. social engineers also proved false.
Contrary to theory, Thai efforts to expand the government’s presence
in the countryside failed to stop the spread of Communist influence. In
part this was because the $223.8 million the United States and Thailand
spent on development programs between 1960 and 1974 was insufficient
to address Thailand’s socioeconomic needs. At times the concentration
of aid on a few model villages encouraged feelings of jealousy and
discontent among neighboring towns that did not receive such attention. Yet even villages that received aid did not always respond in a
positive manner. This was because development administrators, anxious
to accomplish something, often ignored doctrinal precepts about the
importance of winning community collaboration and imposed projects
without taking into consideration the needs, desires, or capabilities of
people themselves. Villagers did not necessarily enjoy the greater attention lavished upon them by officials either. Indeed, one of the ironies of
the Thai program is that government outreach efforts actually created
more dissent than had existed before, both by increasing contact between
the rural population and inept officials and by making the peasants more
aware of their socioeconomic backwardness, thereby creating a revolution of rising expectations where none had previously existed.85
Although beyond the chronological scope of this book, Thailand
eventually defeated the insurgency in the early 1980s. The Thais would
take great pride that they defeated the insurgents after the United States
withdrew virtually all of its military and police personnel in the mid1970s. Many Thais believed that their victory resulted from their abandoning U.S. doctrine, with one story claiming that the high command
burned all its U.S. textbooks. While the Thais had a right to be proud
of their accomplishment, the fact was that they continued to embrace
the counterinsurgency concept that Americans had helped fashion in
the 1960s and early 1970s. Nor did they ever free themselves from the
influence of U.S. doctrine, as U.S. Army manuals continued to be standard fare in Thailand’s military schools, most of which were themselves
closely patterned on their U.S. counterparts.
Despite the apocryphal book burning, Thai success was not so
much due to the development of completely new ideas than to the fact
that the Thais eventually became more proficient at executing the old
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
U.S. Army engineers build a school in Thailand.
ones. Over time the Thais initiated a more effective village government
and self-defense program that expanded the government’s presence
in disaffected areas in an oil-spot fashion. The Army became more
circumspect in using firepower, the paramilitaries became more effective, and government coordination of the total counterinsurgency effort
improved. Although the government cracked down hard on dissidents,
it also offered the insurgents amnesty, stepped up its propaganda initiatives, and undertook measures to improve the quality of the officials
that it sent into dissident areas. None of these endeavors were flawless, and many of the old problems continued to plague Thai efforts.
Nevertheless, the Thais eventually became sufficiently proficient at
implementing the doctrinal concepts of the 1960s to achieve a significant, if belated, victory over the insurgents.86
While socioeconomic development remained an integral part of
post-1975 Thai counterinsurgency efforts, it was not in itself the cause
of victory. Thailand was ultimately much more successful in improving rural security through military and paramilitary measures than it
was in improving rural administration and development. The Thais
also recognized that many U.S. aid programs had been misguided in
that they had spent millions of dollars trying to correct economic ills
that, while real, were not always the true cause of unrest. Instead, the
Thais decided that political and social issues were more important factors than mere poverty alone. Ultimately, their success rested not on
the introduction of significant socioeconomic reforms, but on political
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
measures designed to rebuild a consensus within the country (which
continued to be dominated by military men who rejected Western-style
democracy), limited civic actions, and extensive security and population-control activities.87
There was, however, one other factor in the government’s eventual
success—perhaps the most important. In an odd twist of fate, America’s
defeat in Vietnam and the simultaneous triumph of Communist forces
in Cambodia and Laos undermined the insurgency in Thailand. The fall
of Thailand’s neighbors to communism finally galvanized the government to take its own insurgency seriously. The genocide campaign that
the Communists instituted in Cambodia particularly aided the Thai government in that it discredited communism in the eyes of many Thais.
Finally, squabbles among Thailand’s Communist neighbors fatally
weakened the Thai Communist movement. Vietnam’s 1978 invasion
of Cambodia and China’s subsequent falling out with Vietnam led to a
serious division in Communist ranks. The war in Cambodia—which at
times spilled over the border into Thailand itself—stirred Thai nationalism and reinforced the government’s claim that the Thai Communist
Party was the tool of foreign aggressors. The turmoil in Cambodia also
cut the guerrillas off from one of their traditional external sanctuaries.
Meanwhile, China and Laos, anxious to find allies against Vietnamese
expansionism, courted the Thai government by terminating their aid to
Thailand’s Communist Party.
The loss of external aid and sanctuaries proved just as catastrophic
for Thai Communists as it had for the Greek Communists in 1949.
Divided internally between rival Leninist and Maoist camps, increasingly perceived by the population as being foreign puppets, and cut off
from outside assistance, the Communists withered under the government’s suppression campaign. Discouraged and disillusioned, many
of the students who had joined the insurgency in the mid-1970s took
advantage of government amnesty offers and surrendered. Population
security efforts, backed by civic and psychological actions, increasingly
cut the guerrillas off from the inhabitants, while a series of major offensives in the late 1970s and early 1980s overran one guerrilla base area
after another. With no place left to run, guerrilla numbers plummeted,
and by the mid-1980s there were only a few hundred armed dissidents
left in the bush.88
The Advisory Experience in Retrospect
The unsatisfactory results achieved in Thailand by 1975, together
with the fall of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam to communism in
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
that same year, led many commentators to conclude that U.S. policy
in general, and Army doctrine in particular, was fatally flawed. Yet the
three unfortunate stepchildren of French Indochina were also the only
U.S. allies between 1950 and 1975 to fall to Communist revolutions,
a fact that would seem to indicate that America’s defeat in Indochina
was the result of factors unique to that region rather than to U.S. doctrine in general. In truth, both interpretations have merit, for while
the Indochina states suffered from an unusually unfavorable set of
circumstances, many of the difficulties experienced there were also
present to different degrees in the majority of successful counterinsurgencies. Thus the Army’s experience in Vietnam, while exceptional in
many respects, also reflected problems inherent in the United States’
approach to counterinsurgency.
America’s experience in overseas counterinsurgency during the
1960s and 1970s revealed that many of the tenets of nation-building
theory were somewhat tenuous. First among these was the assumption
that improved economic conditions would inevitably foster stability.
In practice, economic development programs often failed to redress
popular grievances. In fact, they sometimes aggravated them, either
by unduly raising expectations, by accentuating disparities in wealth
between regions or classes, or by accelerating unsettling socioeconomic changes. Poorly executed programs that brought uncaring or
incompetent government representatives into closer contact with the
people also turned out to be worse than no programs at all. The formation of middle classes likewise failed to promote the spread of democratic values. Thus many members of the middle class in Latin America
adopted the interests and attitudes of the old aristocracy, while in Iran,
the middle class joined with the majority of the people in rejecting
modernization in favor of more traditional cultural values. Ultimately,
even Rostow had to admit that “as for the linkage between economic
development and the emergence of stable political democracies, we
may, in retrospect, have been a bit too hopeful.”89
A second assumption that appeared misguided was that Americanstyle democracy was both an exportable commodity and a necessary
and effective weapon against insurgency. In many cases America’s
allies had defeated communism without instituting substantially more
democratic political systems. On the other hand, programs designed
to promote American-style political pluralism could backfire if they
detracted from the type of unity of effort and control essential for the
survival of a besieged government. American concepts of governance
also did not often translate well into other cultures. Historian Daniel
Boorstin had warned of this phenomenon in 1953, arguing that “if we
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
rely on the ‘philosophy of American democracy’ as a weapon in the
world-wide struggle, we are relying on a weapon which may prove to be
a dud.” According to Boorstin, this was because democratic institutions
“always grow out-of-doors in a particular climate and cannot be carried about in a flower pot.” Time and again, U.S. policy makers would
discover the truth in Boorstin’s words, as American-style values and
institutions withered after being transplanted to the infertile soils and
inhospitable climates that characterized many countries. If democracy
is to flourish, it must be carefully cultivated and nourished over a long
period of time under appropriate conditions, not hastily imposed in the
midst of a crisis.90
A related assumption that proved questionable was that outsiders
could properly diagnose the ills of a foreign society. Often U.S. social
engineers approached their tasks with a dangerous mixture of naivete,
ethnocentrism, and hubris that hampered their activities. Ambassador
Ellsworth Bunker’s advice to South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen
Cao Ky that “people are drifting toward communism because they are
poor. If you give the people everything they want—television sets,
automobiles, and so on—none of them will go over to communism,”
reflected the type of simplistic and materialistic philosophy that all too
many nation builders applied to their work.91 Unfortunately, the issues
were usually more complicated than televisions and automobiles. In
fact, many U.S. nation builders were surprised to find that the peoples
of the world were not as eager for the fruits of Western-style modernity
as the creed of rising expectations had led them to believe. After many
disappointing experiences, Army doctrine writers eventually had to
admit that one of the greatest obstacles to “progress” was indigenous
people’s “satisfaction with the existing way of life.” The revolution of
rising expectations thus proved to be as much myth as reality, a projection of modern Western values onto a non-Western, tradition-minded
world. With expectations lagging, U.S. soldiers primed with the notion
that development was the key to dampening revolutionary ardor were
placed in the dubious position of having to impose projects on people
for their own good, a tricky proposition given doctrine’s insistence that
nation builders respect the values and desires of the population.92
More training in the social sciences might have helped U.S. civil
and military officials negotiate the complexities of social engineering,
but this was not practical for the vast majority of soldiers charged with
nation-building responsibilities. Besides, social scientists themselves
were divided as to the best nation-building methods, and their varied
and sometimes conflicting theories usually failed to provide adequate
road maps for practitioners in the field. All too often, American nation
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
builders—civilian and military alike—ended up like so many sorcerer’s
apprentices, vainly struggling to direct vast and mysterious forces that
they could neither fully comprehend nor control.93
Even when U.S. personnel were fairly sure of their methods, they
often ran into yet another intractable problem—their inability to compel
foreign governments to take their advice. Time after time, indigenous
authorities ignored American prescriptions. U.S. officials had always
recognized that the indigenous elites that controlled many foreign governments would have a vested interest in opposing change, yet no one
could come up with a sure way to overcome such resistance. Bettertrained advisory personnel with more language and cultural skills might
have helped increase U.S. influence, as could longer tours of duty. This
was especially true in Vietnam, where the Army insisted on limiting
most advisory tours to one year, with many personnel serving no more
than six months in any given post. The rotation policy was based on
the premise that shorter tours were more equitable and healthier (both
physically and emotionally) than long assignments. Unfortunately, the
policy also disrupted continuity, impeded the development of perspective and understanding, and weakened interpersonal relationships with
Vietnamese counterparts. On the other hand, agencies that used longer
tours of duty, like the State Department, AID, and the CIA, often had
just as much trouble as the Army in convincing foreign officials to follow their advice, so longer tours alone were not the answer.94
One potential solution was leverage—using threats of unfavorable
action, or even the suspension of aid, to prod a reluctant ally into action.
Sometimes leverage worked, sometimes not. Moreover, U.S. officials
were frequently divided over how far they should push a sovereign,
independent government over matters that pertained to its internal
affairs. By the time of the Vietnam War the Army had embraced the
view that its advisory personnel should avoid adopting uncompromising tones when proffering advice. Many individuals would later
criticize this policy as being ineffective, and certainly it exacted a high
price, as when General Westmoreland decided to sacrifice desperately
needed cohesiveness by not pressing the South Vietnamese to accept a
combined military command under U.S. control. Yet there were limits
both as to how far the United States could pressure a proud people like
the Vietnamese, as well as to how much responsibility the United States
was willing to assume over the affairs of another country. Ironically,
U.S. officials soon learned that the more involved they became in
keeping a foreign government afloat, the less leverage they had, as the
receiving state often assumed that the United States would not do anything that might jeopardize the survival of the allied government. This
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
assumption did not always prove correct, as South Vietnam ultimately
discovered, yet it paid off enough times to encourage recalcitrant
regimes to resist unpalatable American initiatives.95
The frustration that U.S. diplomatic and military personnel
experienced over their inability to influence indigenous governments
sometimes produced pressure for a quick fix, usually in the guise of
a change of leadership. This had been the lesson Secretary of State
Dean Acheson had drawn from the China debacle, and favorable command changes in Greece and the Philippines had indeed helped pave
the road to success in those countries. Seeking progress through a
change of leadership was not an unreasonable proposition, and consequently the Kennedy administration had incorporated the notion
into the Overseas Internal Defense Policy. But such changes were not
always possible. They were not a panacea either, as was demonstrated
when Diem’s assassination plunged South Vietnam into a lengthy
period of instability.
If a reluctance on the part of many governments to heed U.S.
advice was a weakness, so too was the difficulty that the United States
had in giving that advice in a clear and consistent manner. Part of the
difficulty was the age-old problem of coordinating the activities of
multiple, independent bureaucracies, each with its own mission and
agenda. The United States never developed an effective way to integrate and direct counterinsurgency activities at the national level. At
the country level, several integrative mechanisms were tried, but none
turned out to be entirely satisfactory. The result was that the doctrinal
ideal of a closely integrated politico-military program was often difficult to obtain.
Another aspect of this problem was the vagueness inherent in U.S.
counterinsurgency doctrine itself. The official statement of national
doctrine, the OIDP, had done little more than establish overarching
concepts. It left the implementing details to the agencies themselves.
Some agencies, like the Army, had expended much effort in developing
and disseminating doctrinal materials to their members. Other agencies
had not. Moreover, no single agency could impose its precepts on the
others, while the single national-level coordinative body, the Special
Group (Counterinsurgency), had proved a weak vessel. Since everyone
accepted the broad tenets associated with the nation-building doctrine,
the perils of this situation had not been truly apparent until U.S. policy
was put to the test in the field, at which point the fissures became
evident as agency feuded with agency and individuals within agencies
argued with each other over exactly how to apply the broad precepts
established by the OIDP and various manuals.
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
More definitive organizational arrangements and doctrinal materials at both the national and agency level would have helped alleviate the
confusion. Yet there were also advantages to be gained by vagueness,
as it encouraged experimentation and flexibility. Dogmatic adherence
to stated principles could just as well lead to problems as a lack of
doctrinal clarity. Such a situation occurred in several countries where
U.S. officials had pressed their indigenous counterparts to assign key
counterinsurgency roles to civilian (police and paramilitary) organizations on the premise that counterinsurgency was primarily a political
and civil—not military—affair. Unfortunately, what sounded good in
theory was unsatisfactory in practice, as a combination of historical and
institutional factors often made such an arrangement either impolitic or
unfeasible. This was particularly true in states where military organizations were more powerful than civilian ones. The result in Thailand,
South Vietnam, and some Latin American countries was that vital pacification, population security, and counterinfrastructure functions were
poorly accomplished because the assigned civilian agencies lacked the
talent, resources, or bureaucratic clout to perform them effectively.
Ultimately, American counterinsurgents of the 1960s and 1970s found
that counterinsurgency was more art than science. No one formulation
could fit all circumstances, and any attempt to force local conditions to
conform to preconceived doctrinal or philosophical notions was bound
for trouble.96
Another critical assumption that frequently proved incorrect was
that recipients of aid would necessarily behave more favorably toward
their benefactors. As General Williams had suggested, guerrilla intimidation certainly dissuaded many potentially friendly people from helping the government, yet other forces also played a role. Thus a combination of political, cultural, and nationalistic factors caused America’s
popularity to decline in Iran and Latin America during the 1960s and
1970s despite the disbursement of billions of dollars to those regions.
As diplomat George Kennan had observed in 1954, “even benevolence,
when addressed to a foreign people, represents a form of intervention
into their internal affairs, and always receives, at best, a divided reception.” Unfortunately, unqualified assertions by some hearts-and-minds
enthusiasts about the virtues of civic action had not prepared U.S. soldiers for this reality.97
The frequent inability of nation-building activities to effect measurable structural or behavioral change, as well as the difficulty which
U.S. officials had in persuading indigenous governments to implement
meaningful reforms, meant that coercion would play the predominant
role in most U.S.-backed counterinsurgency efforts. This certainly was
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
true in Vietnam, where the government’s many failings rendered force
the only effective tool. Indeed, virtually all of the government’s gains in
terms of pacification, security, and population control after 1967 were
directly attributable to the application of military might, not political
and social action. Eventually, increasing numbers of people sided with
the government not because they loved it, but because it was increasingly dangerous not to do so, because the luster had worn off the
enemy’s image of invincibility, and because they were simply tired of
the war and wanted to side with the apparent winner.98
This phenomenon was repeated in many other countries around
the world. From Thailand to Guatemala, “positive programs” of civic
action, nation building, and reform had failed to win the day. True
structural reforms were too difficult to effect under most third world
insurgency conditions, while most civic actions were too superficial
to have anything other than a transitory effect. No credible evidence
emerged from the 1960s and 1970s to suggest that military civic action
had significantly contributed to American nation-building goals, not
just in Latin America, but anywhere in the world. All this did not mean
that carefully crafted psychological and civic action programs could not
influence perceptions and behavior by alleviating suffering, introducing modest improvements, and generally demonstrating government
goodwill. But the expansive claims made by modernization theorists as
to the ability of social reforms to quell an insurgency had proved exaggerated. Even the vaunted MEDCAP program had failed to generate
widespread conversions to the Saigon government’s cause.99
The nation’s experiences during the 1960s and 1970s in assisting
foreign governments in countering internal disorder thus bequeathed
the Army a complex legacy. On the one hand, civilian theorists and
Army doctrine writers alike had been correct in asserting that military
means needed to be subordinated to political ends and that some manner of reform was usually necessary to guarantee peace and stability
into the future. General Ridgway’s warnings as to the potential hazards of trying to save a hopelessly disorganized and unpopular regime
through military power had also been prophetic. Yet American theorists
had fallen short on two fronts. First, they had never truly come to grips
with the fact that the modernization process was itself destabilizing and
that policies designed to promote change were not always compatible
with the maintenance of internal order and stability. More often than
not, the United States would resolve this contradiction by choosing
stability over reform, for when push came to shove, U.S. policy makers
generally found a friendly repressive government to be preferable to a
Communist one. Second, many American theorists had asserted a far
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
too expansive view of the ability of civil measures to combat an active
insurgency. Although some soldiers had adopted this view, mainstream
Army doctrine had been correct in portraying civic action as an important, yet ancillary, weapon.100 Traditional Army doctrine had also been
correct in postulating that significant social progress could be achieved
only after military and police operations had succeeded in establishing
effective control over the countryside. Ultimately, experience demonstrated that military success was just as necessary in counterinsurgency
as in conventional warfare.
Cuba also fell during this period to a revolutionary movement that the United States
did not initially perceive as communistic. The Cuban government received little U.S.
Stephen Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 141–49.
Quote from State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS],
1961–63, vol. 12, American Republics (Washington, D.C.: Government Publishing
Office, 1996), p. 174. Tony Smith, “The Alliance for Progress: The 1960s,” in Exporting
Democracy, the United States and Latin America, ed. Abraham Lowenthal (Baltimore,
Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), p. 72; Howard Wiarda, “Did the Alliance
‘Lose Its Way,’ or Were Its Assumptions All Wrong from the Beginning and Are Those
Assumptions Still with Us?” in The Alliance for Progress: A Retrospective, ed. L.
Ronald Scheman (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1988), pp. 97–99; Stephen Rabe, The
Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution
in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), p. 151.
Quote from Barber and Ronning, Internal Security, p. 45, and see also pp. 37,
44. FRUS, 1961–63, 12:231; Cole Blasier, The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to
Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910–1985 (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1985), table 11; Frank Pancake, “Military Assistance as an Element
of United States Foreign Policy in Latin America, 1950–68” (Ph.D. diss., University of
Virginia, 1969), pp. 109–13, 131; Brian Smith, “United States–Latin American Military
Relations Since World War II: Implications for Human Rights,” in Human Rights and
Basic Needs in the Americas, ed. Margaret Crahan (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown
University Press, 1982), pp. 265–66.
FRUS, 1961–63, 12:197–202, 215; Rpt, HQDA, Feb 62, sub: Cold War Activities,
pp. V-3 to V-5, Historians files, CMH; Rabe, Most Dangerous, p. 133.
Ltr, Gen Palmer to D. Sprague, 29 Apr 60, Historians files, CMH; Pancake,
“Military Assistance,” p. 154; FRUS, 1961–63, 12:215–16; Miles Wolpin, Military Aid
and Counterrevolution in the Third World (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1972),
pp. 60–61.
Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. 316–19, 330–31, 340–41; Georges Fauriol, ed., Latin
American Insurgencies (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1985),
pp. 13–16; Timothy Wickham-Crowley, Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 20–30.
Fauriol, Latin American Insurgencies, pp. 16, 134, 172; James Kohl and John Litt,
Urban Guerrilla Warfare in Latin America (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Press, 1974), pp. 10, 15–27; Enrique Codo, “The Urban Guerrilla,” Military
Review 51 (August 1971): 3–10; Laqueur, Guerrilla, pp. 343–44.
Gary Arnold, “IMET in Latin America,” Military Review 67 (February 1987): 33;
Smith, “United States–Latin American Military Relations,” pp. 269–70, 292ns29, 30,
32; “U.S. Army School of the Americas,” Military Review 50 (April 1970): 88–93.
Rpt, Col Joy K. Vallery, c. 1965, sub: Debriefing Report, pp. 21–22, 39, 49, 400.318
U.S. Assistance, Geo G Colombia, CMH; McClintock, Instruments of Statecraft, pp.
223, 527n31; Pancake, “Military Assistance,” pp. 162–63.
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
Dennis Rempe, “Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: United States
Counter-Insurgency Efforts in Colombia, 1959–1965,” Small Wars and Insurgencies
6 (Winter 1995): 305–11; Richard Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in
Colombia (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1973), p. 68; Memo, JCS for Special Group
(Counterinsurgency), 12 Mar 62, sub: Report of Visit to Colombia, South America,
by a Team from Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, N.C., with atch Memo, Brig Gen
Yarborough for Distribution, 26 Feb 62, sub: Visit to Colombia, South America, by a
Team from Special Warfare Center, LIC, National Security Archives, Washington, D.C.
Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in Colombia, pp. 69–75; Rempe,
“Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics,” pp. 313–21; Rpt, Vallery, c. 1965,
sub: Debriefing Report, pp. 18, 52, 57; Keith Nusbaum, “Bandidos,” Military Review 43
(July 1963): 23–25; Clark Irving, “Internal Defense Operations in Colombia—a Success
Story” (Student thesis, AWC, 1967), p. 15.
Blaufarb and Tanham, Who Will Win? pp. 97–99; Caesar Sereseres, “Military
Development and the United States Military Assistance Program for Latin America: The
Case of Guatemala, 1961–69” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Riverside, 1971),
pp. 238–43; Wayne Kirkbride, Special Forces in Latin America: from Bull Simons to
Just Cause (Wayne Kirkbride, 1991), pp. 60–61, 84; Thomas Rogers, “The Military
and Nation Building in Guatemala” (Student thesis, AWC, 1967), p. 6; Luigi Einaudi
and Alfred Stepan, Latin American Institutional Development: Changing Military
Perspectives in Peru and Brazil, R–586–DOS (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1971),
pp. 25–26; Luis Vega, Guerrillas in Latin America, trans. Daniel Weissbort (New York:
Frederick A. Praeger, 1969), pp. 84–85, 173–87; Lloyd Picou, “The Effectiveness of
Stability Operations in Eliminating Insurgency in Peru” (Student thesis, AWC, 1968),
pp. 23–24, 29–33; Gen Andrew O’Meara, “CINCSOUTH Plans and Problems,” AWC
lecture, 13 Dec 63, pp. 7–8, MHI.
Vincent Lopez, “What the U.S. Army Should Do About Urban Guerrilla Warfare”
(Student thesis, AWC, 1975), p. 24; Blaufarb and Tanham, Who Will Win? pp. 101–02.
Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in Colombia, pp. 55, 60–68; Einaudi
and Stepan, Latin American Institutional Development, pp. 22–25, 81–85; Smith,
“United States–Latin American Military Relations,” pp. 266–67; J. Bina Machado,
“The Making of Brazilian Staff Officers,” Military Review 50 (April 1970): 75–81;
Anthony Auletta, “Ten-Nation Progress Report,” Army 13 (July 1963): 53; Brian Jenkins
and Caesar Sereseres, “United States Military Assistance and the Guatemalan Armed
Forces,” Armed Forces and Society 3 (Summer 1977): 580; Rogers, “Military and Nation
Building,” pp. 7–11; Walterhouse, A Time To Build, pp. 99–102.
FRUS, 1961–63, 12:205; Memo, SGS for Gen Eddleman, 27 Apr 61, sub: Plan To
Step Up Latin American Attendance in Counter-guerrilla Training Activities, 370.64,
CSA, 1955–62, RG 319, NARA; Jerome Levinson and Juan de Onis, The Alliance
That Lost Its Way (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1970), pp. 241–42; Rpt, U.S. Southern
Command, c. 1965, sub: Civic Action Projects Report, 1 March 1964–1 January 1965,
History Office, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C. (hereafter
Quote from U.S. Southern Command Historical Report, Calendar Year (CY) 63, p.
v-20, copy in CMH. Memo, Gen George Lincoln, 8 Nov 65, sub: Memorandum of Notes
Concerning “Internal Security,” pp. 1–7, Historians files, CMH.
Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in Colombia, pp. 69, 70–79; U.S.
Southern Command Annual History, 1964, pp. v-22, v-23, viii-3, copy in CMH; Rpt,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
DCSOPS, 31 Dec 63, sub: A Review of the Civic Action Program, pp. 5–6, Historians
files, CMH; Edward Glick, “Military Civic Action: Thorny Art of the Peace Keepers,”
Army 17 (September 1967): 70; Liza Gross, Handbook of Leftist Guerrilla Groups
in Latin America and the Caribbean (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 29,
145–49; Memo, Dir of Intelligence and Research, State Department, for Secy of State,
23 Oct 67, sub: Guatemala: A Counter-Insurgency Running Wild? National Security
Archives, Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Johnson, Guatemala: From Terrorism to Terror
(London: Institute for the Study of Conflict, 1972), pp. 14, 17.
First quote from FRUS, 1961–63, 12:174. Second quote from Martin Massoglia,
Military Civic Action, Evaluation of Military Techniques, 2 vols. (Research Triangle
Institute, 1971), 2:iv-4. Abraham Lowenthal and J. Samuel Fitch, eds., Armies and
Politics in Latin America (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986), pp. 3–4; David Hughes,
“The Myth of Military Coups and Military Assistance,” Military Review 47 (December
1967): 3–9; Rabe, Most Dangerous, pp. 141–44.
Martin Needler, The United States and the Latin American Revolution (Los
Angeles: University of California, 1977), pp. 48, 51; Frances Foland, “Agrarian Reform
in Latin America,” Foreign Affairs 48 (October 1969): 97–112; Lowenthal, Exporting
Democracy, pp. 79–80. For varying assessments of the role of force and political action
in Latin insurgencies, see David Ronfeldt and Luigi Einaudi, Internal Security and
Military Assistance to Latin America in the 1970s: A First Statement, R–924–ISA (Santa
Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1971), pp. 16, 18, 24–30; Laqueur, Guerrilla, p. 318; Barber and
Ronning, Internal Security, pp. viii–ix; Rabe, Most Dangerous, pp. 148–72.
Jeffrey Clarke, Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965–1973, United States
Army in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1988), pp.
213, 251; Spector, Early Years, pp. 353, 371; Eric Bergerud, The Dynamics of Defeat:
The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), pp.
3, 327.
Dale Andrade, Ashes to Ashes: The Phoenix Program and the Vietnam War
(Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1990), pp. 38–41; Boyd Bashore, “Diem’s
Counterinsurgency Strategy for Vietnam: Right or Wrong?” (Student thesis, AWC,
1968), pp. 4–7.
MacDonald, Outline History, pp. 23–24; William Duiker, The Communist Road to
Power in Vietnam (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1981), p. 198; Spector, Early Years,
pp. 308–11, 326.
Quote from Spector, Early Years, p. 224, and see also pp. 223, 228.
U.S.-Vietnam Relations, bk. 2, ch. IV.A, pp. 4, 17–20; Spector, Early Years, pp.
264, 272–73; Frederick Schneider, “Advising the ARVN: Lieutenant General Samuel
T. Williams in Vietnam, 1955–60” (M.A. thesis, University of North Texas, 1990),
pp. 21–22, 37–38; Hoang Ngoc Lung, Strategy and Tactics, Indochina Monographs
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1980), p. 15.
Chester Cooper, The American Experience with Pacification in Vietnam, R–185,
3 vols., Institute for Defense Analyses, 1972, 3:17–18, 120–21, MHI; Lansdale, In the
Midst of Wars, pp. 126–27, 138–39, 216; Richard Hunt, Pacification: The American
Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995), pp.
11, 21; William Nighswonger, Rural Pacification in Vietnam (New York: Frederick A.
Praeger, 1966), pp. 35–36.
Arnold, First Domino, pp. 306–08, 320–21, 359–60; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:471–74;
Spector, Early Years, pp. 296–300.
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
FRUS, 1958–60, 1:291, 475–76.
Quotes from FRUS, 1955–57, 1:608, and see also pp. 606–07, 609–10.
Spector, Early Years, p. 351; Memo, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam
(MAAG, Vietnam), n.d., sub: Notes on Anti-Guerrilla Operations, atch to Msg,
CINCPAC to JCS, 18 Mar 60, sub: Notes on Anti-Guerrilla Operations, forwarding of,
3360, 1960, RG 218, NARA; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:291–92.
FRUS, 1958–60, 1:353–54, 358, 477; Spector, Early Years, pp. 350, 352;
Memo, Col Richard Comstock, Army Attache, Saigon, for Assistant Chief of Staff
for Intelligence (ACSI), 25 Apr 60, sub: Conversation Regarding Vietnamese Army
Problems, Historians files, CMH.
James Collins, The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army, 1950–
1972, Vietnam Studies (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1975), pp. 123–24;
Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 1:65–67; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:479.
Spector, Early Years, pp. 274, 326; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:131–33.
Spector, Early Years, pp. 273, 320.
Collins, Development and Training, p. 8; Spector, Early Years, pp. 321–24, 378;
U.S.-Vietnam Relations, bk. 2, ch. IV, pp. 22–23.
MAAG, Vietnam, Anti-Guerrilla Guerrilla, 10 Nov 60; MAAG, Vietnam,
Implementing Actions for Anti-Guerrilla Operations, 15 Nov 60. Both in Black Memos,
CJCS Lemnitzer, RG 218, NARA. Cooper, American Experience with Pacification,
Quote from MAAG, Vietnam, Tactics and Techniques of Counterinsurgent
Operations, 1963, p. V F-1, and see also pp. ix–xiv, III C-1 and C-2, III E-1, IV A-1, IV
B-1 to IV B-16, V L-2, VI A-1 to VI B-5.
Spector, Early Years, pp. 361–62, 371–72; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:613–20; Memo,
CINCPAC, 26 Apr 60, sub: Counter-Insurgency Operations in South Vietnam and Laos,
Historians files, CMH.
Michael Clodfelter, Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars,
1772–1991 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1995), pp. 44, 57; Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, a
History (New York: Viking Press, 1983), pp. 251–53.
Francis Kelly, U.S. Army Special Forces, 1961–1971, Vietnam Studies (Washington,
D.C.: Department of the Army, 1973), p. 37.
Richard Hunt and Richard Shultz, eds., Lessons from an Unconventional War:
Reassessing U.S. Strategies for Future Conflicts (New York: Pergamon Press, 1982),
pp. 6, 13; Nighswonger, Rural Pacification, pp. 47–48; MACV, Guide for Subsector
Advisers, 1966, p. 1, Historians files, CMH.
Stephen Bowman, “The Evolution of United States Army Doctrine for
Counterinsurgency Warfare: From World War II to the Commitment of Combat Units
in Vietnam” (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1985), p. 69; Collins, Development and
Training, pp. 17–18, 33; MAAG, Vietnam, Training Tips (Small Unit Tactics), Oct
62; Memo, Brig Gen Howard K. Eggleston, Ch, Army Section, MAAG, Vietnam, for
Distribution, 13 Mar 63, sub: Counterinsurgent Orientation of POI’s and ATP’s. Both in
Historians files, CMH.
Quote from Ltr, McGarr to Brig Gen William Cunningham III, Asst Commandant,
CGSC, 13 Apr 61, Historians files, CMH. MAAG, Vietnam, Tactics and Techniques
of Counterinsurgent Operations, 1963, pp. III D-1 to III D-5; Memos, U.S. Army,
Pacific, for Distribution, 2 Nov 62, sub: USARPAC Counterinsurgency Summary
Number 1, pp. 2–5, N–16082.21, CARL, and McGarr for MAAG Advisers, 15 Nov 60,
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
sub: Implementing Actions for Anti-Guerrilla Operations, p. 3, Black Memos, CJCS
Lemnitzer, RG 218, NARA. Memo, MAAG, Vietnam, for Distribution, 19 Jun 62, sub:
Lessons Learned [LL] Number 16, pp. 1–4, Historians files, CMH (lessons learned
reports will be hereafter cited as MAAG, Vietnam, LL number, and the date); MAAG,
Vietnam, LL 35, 10 Jan 64, pp. 1–7, and LL 36, 4 Feb 64, pp. 1–3. Compare FM 31–20,
1951, with Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) training materials as found in
Translations, Army G–2, Counter Insurgency Training Lesson Plans, 27 Mar 62, MHI,
and Counter Insurgency Training Material, 4 Apr 62, C–18745.17–B, CARL.
First quote from Translation, Army G–2, Counter Insurgency Training Material, 4
Apr 62, p. 4, and see also pp. 5–7. Memos, MAAG, Vietnam, for Distribution, 6 Dec
62, sub: Search Techniques Training, pp. 14, 35, 37, N–18745.28–a, CARL, and U.S.
Army, Pacific, for Distribution, 2 Nov 62, sub: USARPAC Counterinsurgency Summary
Number 1, pp. 11–12. Second quote from Memo, Col Frank Lee, Ch, CA-MTT, for Ch
of Civil Affairs, 20 Oct 60, sub: Report of Civil Affairs MTT in Vietnam During Period
19 July–5 October 1960, USASOC/HO. Third quote from MAAG, Vietnam, Tactics
and Techniques of Counterinsurgent Operations, 1963, p. III I-1, and see also p. III I-3.
MAAG, Vietnam, LL 16, 19 Jun 62, p. 4; LL 20, 27 Aug 62, pp. 1–2; LL 25, 17 Dec 62,
pp. 2, 5, 7–8; LL 30, 19 Aug 63, pp. 1–7; and LL 35, 10 Jan 64, p. 5.
Collins, Development and Training, pp. 43–46.
Rpt, Brig Gen John Finn, Mar 64, sub: Report to the Chief of Staff United States
Army on the U.S.-GVN Effort, p. I-a-6, 68–3306, RG 319, NARA (hereafter cited as
Finn Rpt); Louis Wiesner, Victims and Survivors: Displaced Persons and Other War
Victims in Viet-Nam, 1954–1975 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), p. 32; MAAG,
Vietnam, Tactics and Techniques of Counterinsurgent Operations, 1963, pp. IV B-13 to
IV B-15.
Clarke, Final Years, p. 12; FRUS, 1958–60, 1:310–11, 322–24, 550–51, 555;
William Westmoreland, “The Fight for Freedom in Viet Nam,” Army Information Digest
20 (February 1965): 10; The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of
United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam, Senator Gravel ed., 4 vols. (Boston: Beacon
Press, 1971–1972), 2:752–56.
Nighswonger, Rural Pacification, p. 46; Spector, Early Years, p. 332; Hunt,
Pacification, pp. 20–28, 42–44; Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 2:49–
50, and 3:139–43, 204–05, 235–36; William Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports (Garden
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976), pp. 82–88, 99–100.
Bergerud, Dynamics of Defeat, p. 144; Nighswonger, Rural Pacification, p. 224.
Clarke, Final Years, pp. 515–16; Robert Komer, Bureaucracy at War: U.S.
Performance in the Vietnam Conflict (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1986), p. 82;
Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 1:18–20, and 2:114–18, 148.
First quote from Spector, Early Years, p. 335, and see also, p. 368. Second quote
from Outline for Chief MAAG, Vietnam, 24 Apr 61, p. 1. Memo, McGarr, c. Apr 61,
sub: Anti-Guerrilla Warfare—Vietnam Style—Part I, p. 10. Both in Black Memos, CJCS
Lemnitzer, RG 218, NARA. Ltr, McGarr, MAAG, Vietnam, to Lemnitzer, Chairman,
Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), 20 Jan 61, pp. 2–3, Historians files, CMH; Shafer, Deadly
Paradigms, pp. 263–64; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, pp. 218–19.
Hunt, Pacification, p. 75.
Finn Rpt, pp. D-2, D-3, D-4, I-a-2, I-a-4, I-a-5, I-a-7, I-a-34, I-B-10, V-G-5, VI-a-1;
Rpt, DCSOPS, 1 Apr 65, sub: Analysis of the Military Effort in South Vietnam, pp. 61,
67, 68A2344, RG 319, NARA; Collins, Development and Training, pp. 35, 123–26.
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
DCSOPS, A Program for the Pacification and Long-Term Development of South
Vietnam, Mar 66, pp. 5–37 (hereafter cited as PROVN); Army Concept Team in Vietnam
(ACTIV), Armor Operations for Counterinsurgency in Vietnam, 9 Feb 66, p. 25; MAAG,
Vietnam, LL 16, 19 Jun 62, pp. 1–4, and LL 35, 10 Jan 64, pp. 1–2, 6.
ACTIV, Armor Operations, pp. 24–25; Finn Rpt, pp. D-5, D-6, I-a-7 to I-a-10,
I-B-10, I-B-11; Memo, MAAG, Vietnam, n.d., sub: Notes on Anti-Guerrilla Operations;
William Miller, ARVN Infantry Tactics Before 1965 (Research Report, Air War College,
1970), pp. 4, 23–24; Rpts, Brig Gen Harvey Jablonsky et al., to DCSOPS, Mar 62,
sub: Report of Orientation Tour to South Vietnam, p. 4, Historians files, CMH, and
DCSOPS, 1 Apr 65, sub: Analysis of the Military Effort in South Vietnam, p. 22;
ACTIV, Employment of Artillery in Counterinsurgency Operations, 1965, pp. xiii, xiv,
64, D-4, E-4; MAAG, Vietnam, LL 36, 4 Feb 64, pp. 1–3.
Miller, ARVN Infantry, pp. 4, 23–24; Lung, Strategy and Tactics, pp. 53–54,
Quote from George Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and
Vietnam, 1950–1975 (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1979), p. 132. HQDA, Final
Report of the Research Project: Conduct of the War, May 71, p. 5, CMH.
Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 2:17 and 3:230; Duiker, Road to
Power, pp. 245–49, 261–62; Andrade, Ashes to Ashes, pp. 71–72, 81.
Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 1:58.
Hunt, Pacification, p. 36; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, pp. 227–29.
Finn Rpt, p. I-F-6; Rpt, DCSOPS, 1 Apr 65, sub: Analysis of the Military Effort
in South Vietnam, p. 93; PROVN, pp. 1, 53, 58–59; CDC, Special Warfare and Civil
Affairs Group, Concepts and General Doctrine for Counterinsurgency, Jul 65, pp. 3–4,
47, 73A2677, CDC, RG 338, NARA; Komer, Bureaucracy at War, pp. 89–92, 119;
Hunt, Pacification, pp. 36, 76, 90–93; Cooper, American Experience with Pacification,
John Gates, “Peoples’ War in Vietnam,” Journal of Military History 54 (July 1990):
338; Komer, Bureaucracy at War, p. 119.
According to one scholar, forcible relocations accounted for only about 10 percent of all people displaced during the war. Tran Dinh Tho, Pacification, Indochina
Monographs (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1980), p. 155;
Gunther Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 445;
Thomas Thayer, “How To Analyze a War Without Fronts, Vietnam 1965–72,” Journal
of Defense Research, Series B, Tactical Warfare 7B (Fall 1975): 924–25; Seymour
Melman, ed., In the Name of America (Annandale, Va.: Turnpike Press, 1968), pp. 328,
365–66; Wiesner, Victims and Survivors, pp. 73–75, 90, 168–69, 210, 229–52, 353;
Southeast Asia Analysis Rpt, The Refugee Problem, Magnitude and Measures, Sep 67,
p. 16, Historians files, CMH.
John Forrest, “The Civic Action Advisory Effort: Republic of Vietnam” (Master’s
thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969), pp. 69, 93, 107–08, 128–30; Tho,
Pacification, p. 188; Lung, Strategy and Tactics, p. 95.
In addition, North Vietnam had several divisions outside of South Vietnam,
while both sides still fielded large paramilitary and local force units. Charles Timmes,
“Vietnam Summary: Military Operations After the Cease-Fire Agreement, pt. 1,”
Military Review 56 (August 1976): 65–66; Tho, Pacification, pp. 167, 184–85.
Blaufarb and Tanham, Who Will Win? pp. 83–84; Cooper, American Experience
with Pacification, 2:42; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, p. 216; Andrade, Ashes to
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Ashes, pp. 158–64, 185, 240–42, 276, 284; Lung, Strategy and Tactics, pp. 39–40;
Clarke, Final Years, p. 254; Tho, Pacification, p. 188.
Clifton Fox, “Turkish Army’s Role in Nation Building,” Military Review 47 (April
1967): 68–74; Auletta, “Ten-Nation,” pp. 55–56; Robert Peters, “So This Is Civic
Action,” Army Information Digest 22 (April 1967): 14; Civil Affairs School, ST 41–
1094, Civic Action Plan for the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces, 1963, Historians files,
CMH; Rpts, Brig Gen Richard Whitney, Debriefing of Senior and Key Officers, 1964,
pp. 5–7, 14–28, and Maj Gen George Eckhardt, Debriefing of Senior and Key Officers,
1965, pp. 10–15, both in 314.82, CMH.
Irving Heymont, “The U.S. Army and Foreign National Development,” Military
Review 51 (November 1971): 22; Jack Miklos, The Iranian Revolution and Modernization:
Way Station to Anarchy (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1983),
pp. 16, 21, 25–26, 29, 39–42, 62–63.
Lachica, The Huks, pp. 187–88, 230–48; Kessler, Rebellion and Repression, pp.
Daniel Bolger, Scenes from an Unfinished War: Low-Intensity Conflict in
Korea, 1966–1969 (Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: Combat Studies Institute, 1991), pp.
1–4, 24.
Ibid., pp. 49–51, 55–57, 77–78; Wesley Pruden, “Asia’s Other War,” Army 17
(November 1967): 26–31; Robert Davenport, “Barrier Along the Korean DMZ,”
Infantry 57 (May–June 1967): 40–42; William Guthrie, “Korea: The Other DMZ,”
Infantry 60 (March–April 1970): 17–22; James Wroth, “Korea: Our Next Vietnam?”
Military Review 48 (November 1968): 34–40.
Bolger, Unfinished War, pp. 45–46, 57.
Ibid., pp. 30, 56–59, 83; Charles Bonesteel, “U.S.–South Korean Partnership Holds
a Truculent North at Bay,” Army 19 (October 1969): 59–63.
Bolger, Unfinished War, pp. 83–85, 97.
Robert Zimmerman, “Thailand: The Domino That Did Not Fall,” in Edwin Corr
and Stephen Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict: Old Threats in a New World (Boulder, Colo.:
Westview Press, 1992), pp. 77–79; Robert Zimmerman, “Insurgency in Thailand,”
Problems of Communism 25 (May–June 1976): 18–26, 30–33.
Saiyud Kerdphol, The Struggle for Thailand: Counterinsurgency, 1965–1985
(Bangkok: S. Research Center, 1986), pp. 2, 5; Muthiah Alagappa, The National
Security of Developing States, Lessons from Thailand (Dover, Mass.: Auburn House,
1987), pp. 150–58, 168–69, 188; FRUS, 1961–63, vol. 23, Southeast Asia, pp. 917,
973–86, 992–93; Rpt, DCSOPS, 1 Apr 65, sub: Counterinsurgency: Operations and
Planning in Thailand, MHI.
George Tanham, Trial in Thailand (New York: Crane, Russak and Co., 1974),
pp. 71–89; Chaiyo Krasin, “Military Civic Action in Thailand,” Military Review 48
(January 1968): 73–77; Thomas Lobe, U.S. National Security Policy and Aid to the
Thailand Police (Denver, Colo.: University of Denver, 1977), pp. 19–25, 28–30, 37–45;
Robert Muscat, Thailand and the United States: Development, Security, and Foreign
Aid (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), pp. 160–65; J. Alexander Caldwell,
American Economic Aid to Thailand (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1974), pp. 55,
Tanham, Trial in Thailand, pp. 78–80, 85–87, 91, 97–100.
Zimmerman, “The Domino That Did Not Fall,” in Corr and Sloan, Low-Intensity
Conflict, p. 87; Thomas Marks, Thailand—the Threatened Kingdom (London:
The Advisory Experience, 1955–1975
Institute for Conflict Study, 1980), pp. 8–13; Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp.
Caldwell, American Economic Aid, p. 16; Tanham, Trial in Thailand, pp. 124–25.
First quote from Memo, JUSMAG, Thailand, c. 1961, sub: Small Unit Tactics—
Anti-guerrilla Warfare, p. 2, atch to Memo, JUSMAG, Thailand, c. 1962, sub: Thailand
Guerrilla Warfare, CARL. Second quote from ibid, p. 1. Memo, CINCPAC for JCS, 4
May 62, sub: Status of Development of Counter-guerrilla Forces, p. 14, Historians files,
CMH; FRUS, 1961–63, 23:52, 874–75, 913–14, 917, 973–74.
Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, p. 187; Tanham, Trial in Thailand, pp. 123–25,
Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp. 82, 130; Caldwell, American Economic Aid,
p. 15; Lobe, Thailand Police, pp. 46, 65, 67; Zimmerman, “The Domino That Did Not
Fall,” in Corr and Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict, pp. 83–84.
Tanham, Trial in Thailand, pp. 72, 92, 149; Lobe, Thailand Police, pp. 6, 37,
75–77, 104–06.
Tanham, Trial in Thailand, pp. 80, 101–04; Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp.
90–94, 129–31, 153–54; David Wyatt, Thailand, a Short History (New Haven, Conn.:
Yale University Press, 1984), pp. 289–90; Caldwell, American Economic Aid, pp. 57–58,
62, 68–69, 140–43; Muscat, Thailand and the United States, pp. 168–71, 315.
Memo, Col Aaron Walker, Ch, JUSMAG, Thailand, for CINCPAC, 27 Oct 78, sub:
End of Tour Report, Historians files, CMH; Stuart Slade, “Successful Counter-insurgency: How Thais Burnt the Books and Beat the Guerrillas,” International Defense Review,
Editorial Supplement to October 1998 Issue, Internal Security and CO-IN (October
1989): 21–25; Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp. 84–87; Jennifer Taw, Thailand and
the Philippines, Case Studies in U.S. IMET Training and Its Role in Internal Defense
and Development (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1994), pp. xi, 16–17, 26–29; Alagappa,
Lessons from Thailand, pp.170–71, 175–78.
Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp. 87, 153, 167, 177; Caldwell, American
Economic Aid, pp. 148, 158; Alagappa, Lessons from Thailand, pp. 151, 192–93, 244.
Barbara LePoer, Thailand: A Country Study, Area Handbook Series (Washington,
D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989), pp. 231–33; Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp.
166–67; John Esterline and Mae Esterline, “How the Dominoes Fall”: Southeast Asia
in Perspective (New York: University Press of America, 1990), p. 276; Zimmerman,
“The Domino That Did Not Fall,” in Corr and Sloan, Low-Intensity Conflict, pp. 89, 95;
Alagappa, Lessons from Thailand, pp. 166, 171, 177–78, 190–92.
Quote from Walt Rostow, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Foreign Aid: Ideas and
Actions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), p. 50. Rabe, Most Dangerous, pp.
155–59; Massoglia, Military Civic Action, pp. viii-1 to viii-11; Raymond Barrett, “The
Development Process and Stability Operations,” Military Review 52 (November 1972):
58–63; Hennessy, Strategy in Vietnam, pp. 150–51; Clarke, Final Years, pp. 501–02;
Kerdphol, Struggle for Thailand, pp. 129, 153–54; Smith, “Alliance for Progress,”
in Lowenthal, Exporting Democracy, pp. 78–79; Wiarda, Ethnocentrism in Foreign
Policy, pp. 1–6; Miklos, Iranian Revolution, pp. 16, 21, 25–26, 29, 39–42, 62–63.
Quotes from Packenham, Liberal America, p. 190.
Quote from Richard Sutter, “The Strategic Implications of Military Civic Action,”
in DePauw and Luz, Winning the Peace, p. 143.
Ibid., pp. 133–38. Quotes from 300th Civil Affairs Group, A Guide to Military
Civic Action, 1969, p. 55, and see also pp. 53–62, copy in CMH. Wiarda, Ethnocentrism
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
in Foreign Policy, pp. 9–10, 23, 27–30; Lawrence Harrison, Underdevelopment Is a
State of Mind (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985), p. xv; U.S. Congress,
Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere
Affairs, U.S. Military Policies and Programs in Latin America, 91st Cong., 1st sess.,
1969, pp. 1–31; Solomon Siliver, Counter-Insurgency and Nation Building: A Study
with Emphasis on South East Asia (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Agency for International
Development, 1967), p. 46; Latham, Modernization as Ideology, pp. 66, 204, 211.
Miklos, Iranian Revolution, p. 1; Thomas Adams, “Military Doctrine and the
Organization Culture of the U.S. Army” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1990), p.
Cooper, American Experience with Pacification, 1:73; Finn Rpt, 2:H-17, H-18.
Collins, Development and Training, pp. 52, 129–30; Clarke, Final Years, p. 245;
Komer, Bureaucracy at War, pp. 25–37, 127; Nighswonger, Rural Pacification, pp.
199–203; Blaufarb, Counterinsurgency Era, pp. 73, 86–87; Rabe, Most Dangerous, pp.
Lobe, Thailand Police, p. 6; Andrade, Ashes to Ashes, p. 85.
Quote from David Greenberg, “The United States Response to Philippine
Insurgency” (Ph.D. diss., Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University,
1994), p. 3.
Rpt, Vietnam Special Studies Group, 16 Mar 70, sub: The Situation in the
Countryside, Quang Nam Province, pp. 7–8, 10, 14, 16, 38–40, 48, 51–52; Rpt,
Vietnam Special Studies Group, The Situation in the Countryside, 10 Jan 70, pp. 2–4,
7, 90, 92–93. Both in Historians files, CMH. Hunt, Pacification, p. 247; Blaufarb,
Counterinsurgency Era, pp. 118–19, 207, 271, 277; Bergerud, Dynamics of Defeat, pp.
5, 328, 333.
Raymond Bishop, Medical Support of Stability Operations: a Vietnam Case Study
(Student paper, Army War College, 1969), pp. 6–13, 23; Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas,
and Politics in Colombia, pp. 69, 76–78; Barber and Ronning, Internal Security, pp.
197–206, 230; Glick, Peaceful Conflict, pp. 176–82; Packenham, Liberal America, pp.
174–81; Miklos, Iranian Revolution, pp. 12, 64–65; Heymont, “U.S. Army and Foreign
National Development,” pp. 20–23; Hennessy, Strategy in Vietnam, pp. 147–48, 166,
Hoyt Livingston and Francis Watson, “Civic Action: Purpose and Pitfalls,”
Military Review 47 (December 1967): 21–22.
Doctrine Applied: The U.S.
Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
The deployment of U.S. combat forces to Vietnam in 1965 gave the
Army the opportunity to apply directly its counterinsurgency concepts
in a major conflict for the first time since the Korean War. U.S. soldiers
soon realized that giving advice was easier than combating an insurgency
themselves. The deployment also forced the Army to confront a significant conceptual oversight—the tendency of most counterinsurgency
literature to focus on the political and guerrilla aspects of an insurgency
(phases I and II) at the expense of the quasi-conventional third phase.
Despite the fact that the crowning piece of Mao’s three stages
of revolutionary warfare was the “war of movement,” most theorists
had ignored this phase in favor of the more uniquely “revolutionary”
aspects of insurgent warfare. Unfortunately, phase III insurgencies were
exactly the type most likely to result in the commitment of U.S. ground
troops, for as Vietnam demonstrated, a natural reluctance on the part of
politicians to embroil the United States in foreign wars tended to limit
U.S. participation to advisory activities in anything less than the most
dire circumstances. Thus when U.S. combat troops arrived in 1965 they
faced a situation more akin to the later stages of the Chinese Civil War,
in which the counterinsurgents were whipsawed by a dual guerrillaconventional threat, than a purely guerrilla conflict like the Malayan
and Philippine insurgencies. Ironically, while Army counterguerrilla
doctrine was rooted in the lessons of irregular combat fought within
a conventional war context, these roots had become overshadowed
during the early 1960s by a somewhat romanticized view of people’s
wars, in which motley bands of ill-armed peasants under the inspired
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
leadership of Communist Party organizers overthrew governments with
little assistance from outside powers and conventional armies. While
such eventualities were possible, this was not the situation in Vietnam.
Consequently, the Army was compelled to rely more heavily on conventional forms of power than many theorists had envisioned.1 Many
of the most perplexing problems faced by the Army in Vietnam would
revolve around the inherent tensions between fighting a large, conventional war on the one hand while attempting to pacify the countryside
on the other.
The insertion of U.S. combat forces into the Vietnamese civil war
in 1965 dramatically altered the course of that conflict, but it did not
significantly change American conceptions about how the war should
be fought. American national and military doctrine maintained that
the best way to defeat an insurgency was through a deft combination of political, economic, and military measures that would remove
the underlying causes of unrest while suppressing the overt, military
manifestations of discontent. This had been the policy the United
States had pursued in Vietnam without success over the previous
decade, and it remained U.S. policy for the remainder of the war.
Central to America’s strategy was the ubiquitous oil-spot theory that
blended military operations, population-control measures, and civil
programs into a cohesive tapestry of gradually expanding government
While most Americans embraced this formula, they differed profoundly over the means to be used and the relative priority of those
means with regard to each other. Many believed that socioeconomic
and political issues had to receive priority at every step of the counterinsurgency process. Westmoreland and other senior officers disagreed.
Hard experience had already demonstrated that socioeconomic betterment programs could not survive in an insecure climate, no matter how
well intentioned they might be. Thus, while he did not question the
need to address political issues, Westmoreland believed that military
concerns had to take precedence in many cases, with genuine reform
being relegated to the later stages once a sufficient measure of security
had been achieved through military operations.3
A second strategic choice that engendered controversy concerned
the role that U.S. troops were to play in the upcoming campaign.
Experience indicated the importance that foreign aid and safe havens
played in successful insurgent movements, and consequently Army
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
General Westmoreland inspects Viet Cong prisoners.
doctrine had made the isolation of the guerrillas from external assistance one of the three principal objectives of counterguerrilla warfare,
along with isolating the guerrillas from internal support and effecting
their destruction. Civilian policy makers, however, fearing a widening of the conflict into a regional conflagration, refused to use ground
troops to drive the enemy from his cross-border bases. Consequently,
Westmoreland had little choice but to rely on air power and covert
operations to interdict the Viet Cong’s external lifelines. Not until 1970
would Washington lift its self-imposed ban on cross-border operations
and then only briefly. This policy, coupled with the failure of American
military, diplomatic, and unconventional warfare efforts to deny the
enemy the use of Laos and Cambodia, meant that the allies were never
able to isolate the battlefield. This predicament would ultimately prove
fatal, for despite romantic talk about guerrillas living off the land, the
reality was that Communist forces in South Vietnam depended heavily
on outside sources for weapons, ammunition, and manpower. Unlike in
Greece and Korea, where successful border interdiction caused indigenous guerrillas to wither on the vine, in South Vietnam Communist
forces enjoyed the benefit of an endless influx of men and materiel
from the North that significantly offset Free World assistance to the
Saigon government.4
If Westmoreland found the idea of isolating South Vietnam from
northern infiltration an attractive—if difficult—objective, he found
little merit in an alternative proposal to confine U.S. operations to
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
coastal enclaves. This concept, championed by the U.S. ambassador
to South Vietnam, retired Army General Maxwell Taylor, called for
U.S. troops to guard vital air bases and population centers while the
Army of the Republic of Vietnam took to the field. Such a deployment
would limit America’s involvement in the conflict and position the
United States for an easy exit should the situation deteriorate. Generals
Westmoreland and Johnson, however, rejected the enclave concept. The
South Vietnamese Army had already proved that it was unable to defeat
the enemy in the field, and the situation was becoming more critical
every day. A strategy of defensive enclaves would also forfeit the initiative to the enemy—a violation of the offensive spirit that permeated
U.S. doctrine. Moreover, Westmoreland believed that maximizing the
Army’s strength—its fighting power—made better sense than restricting the Army to a defensive role. Eventually, Taylor conceded that
South Vietnam could not be saved by passive measures, and the enclave
strategy gave way to a more aggressive approach.5
The final plan determined by Westmoreland attempted to achieve
a delicate balance between several important counterinsurgency objectives. To detect and intercept the steady stream of enemy reinforcements crossing South Vietnam’s porous borders, Westmoreland would
employ a screen of American-led CIDG irregulars backed by special
reconnaissance elements and a relatively small number of regular combat troops. While these forces patrolled the hinterlands, he would base
the majority of his men closer to the coast and around Saigon. From
such locations, U.S. forces would be positioned to protect the South
Vietnamese people from attack and to isolate the guerrillas from the
majority of the nation’s resources, much as the enclave strategy had
envisioned. Yet unlike the enclave strategy, Westmoreland also planned
to use these bases to launch offensives into Communist-controlled territory, breaking up and destroying enemy concentrations and laying the
groundwork for the eventual expansion of government control throughout South Vietnam via the oil-spot method.
Westmoreland explained the complicated offensive-defensive role
allied military forces would play with the analogy of a boxer.
His right hand stays in close to secure his jaw, his mid-section, his vulnerable
areas. His left stays out, punching, to keep the initiative on the enemy. If there
is an opening he can uncork his right, to reinforce the left and knock the opponent out. But he must always bring it back. When it is out he is vulnerable.
Sometimes he brings the punch hand back to help cover the vital areas; then
the opponent has the initiative.
The right hand is the forces we need to secure the population, to be
employed on pacification and revolutionary development missions. These
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
concentrate on killing the guerrillas who harass the people and are the eyes
and ears of the enemy.
The punch hand carries the fight to the Main Force and keeps the initiative
on him. “Right hand” troops are moved occasionally if the opportunity arises,
but they can’t be gone long. They must provide security. If we pull our punch
hand in, then like the boxer, we lose the initiative. So our fundamental strategy
is a balance between the right and left-hand forces. We can reinforce the left,
but we must never pull it in and button up. This is the enclave concept. . . . The
art of command in this environment consists in achieving the proper balance
between the two hands.6
Having settled on this concept, the next step was to establish a division of labor between the Vietnamese and the newly arriving Americans.
For the past twenty years U.S. foreign policy had consistently maintained that indigenous governments bore primary responsibility for
their own defense, especially in matters of internal security. This policy
reflected the fact that indigenous governments were usually quite sensitive about foreigners meddling in their internal affairs, not to mention
the aversion the American public typically exhibited toward becoming
embroiled in overseas conflicts. U.S. officers had likewise recognized
the merits of relegating internal security issues to local troops. Native
soldiers were the logical instruments for enforcing the internal policies of indigenous governments. They not only had a legitimacy that
no foreign soldier could possess in the post-colonial era, but also their
inherent language skills, cultural affinity, and regional knowledge
gave them great advantages over foreign soldiers when they undertook
constabulary operations. On the other hand, the military power of most
third world nations paled in comparison to that of the United States.
Thus creating a rough division of labor between the allies made sense.
The militarily weak South Vietnamese would shoulder the primary
burden of the internal war—fighting village guerrillas, establishing
control over the nation’s population and resources, and building new
social institutions capable of withstanding the Communist onslaught.
Conversely, the United States, while assisting in all of these endeavors,
would play to its own strengths to wage the big battles against the enemy’s main force units. In so doing, U.S. forces would provide the necessary umbrella of security so desperately needed if Saigon’s pacification
and nation-building endeavors were to have any chance of success. This
approach was entirely consistent with Anglo-American doctrine and
mirrored the way the United States had divided responsibilities fifteen
years earlier in the Korean War. As Westmoreland explained, “we can
carry the major share of the punch, while the weight of their [the South
Vietnamese] effort goes into securing.”7
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
The allies incorporated Westmoreland’s division of labor into their
annual combined campaign plans. The bifurcation, however, was never
absolute. Throughout the war the South Vietnamese Army participated
in major offensive operations. Conversely, U.S. units were always performing security and pacification support missions akin to the “right
hand” in Westmoreland’s analogy. Thus the relationship between U.S.
and Vietnamese roles, as well as the relative “weight” given to each of
the two “fists,” would remain dynamic throughout the war.8
In envisioning how the war would be fought, Westmoreland postulated that he first needed to “stem the tide” of Communist aggression
by employing the few U.S. troops initially available to him in 1965
and 1966 in a series of raids and spoiling attacks to keep the enemy
off-balance. Once the situation had stabilized, he planned to switch
from harassment to sustained offensive operations, exploiting the
steady growth of American combat and logistical power to destroy the
enemy’s major forces and bases. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese, under
the cover of American operations and with some direct American help,
would undertake pacification operations in selected areas. Finally,
after the enemy’s main forces had been broken and dispersed, the allies
would mop up the remaining insurgent infrastructure and solidify the
government’s presence in the countryside, introducing more permanent
political and socioeconomic reforms to strengthen the government’s
presence and redress the causes of discontent.
This formulation mirrored Army doctrinal precepts, and to an
extent the war played out as Westmoreland had envisioned. After passing through the initial defensive stage, MACV was able to transition to
division- and even corps-size offensive operations by 1967. These operations imposed significant human and material losses on the enemy, but
they neither dampened his determination nor sufficiently weakened his
offensive capability, thanks in large measure to the continued infusion
of troops from North Vietnam. The result was a bloody stalemate.
At this point in January 1968 the Communists launched their massive Tet offensive. Tet proved a political coup for the North Vietnamese.
The sheer size and power of the offensive shocked and demoralized
many Americans who were beginning to tire after three years of war.
As the conflict became increasingly unpopular at home, America’s new
president, Richard M. Nixon, initiated a gradual withdrawal of U.S.
troops while continuing the peace talks his predecessor had initiated
with North Vietnam. This dual process eventually led to a tenuous
cease-fire and the final removal of U.S. forces in 1973.
Although the Tet offensive ultimately proved to be a political victory for the Communists, militarily it was a disaster. Heavy losses led
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
the Communists to withdraw some of their major units to remote base
camps and cross-border sanctuaries far from South Vietnam’s population centers. Communist main force activity dropped precipitously, from
an annual average of seventy battalion-size assaults between 1965 and
1968 to an annual rate of twenty battalion-size attacks during 1969 and
1970. Ironically, the Communist offensive had achieved what MACV
had only imperfectly accomplished after three years of effort—it had
driven the main force units back and weakened the remaining guerrillas
to the extent that pacification could finally move forward.9
General Creighton W. Abrams, who replaced Westmoreland as
MACV commander in June 1968, was determined to exploit the opportunity. He championed the notion that the conflict in Vietnam should
be treated as “one war,” in which military and pacification operations
blended into a seamless tapestry. Consequently, Army units began paying greater attention to the type of area security and pacification support missions that had always been central to Army doctrine, but that
had frequently assumed a backseat prior to 1968 due to the threat posed
by the enemy’s main forces.10
The new tack taken by U.S. forces in the wake of Tet was fairly
successful in increasing population security and reducing, though
never eliminating, the presence of Communist guerrillas and political
cadres among the population. Still, Abrams’ one-war campaign differed
from Westmoreland’s activities more in emphasis than in substance. As
MACV admitted in 1970, “the basic concept and objectives of pacification, to defeat the VC/NVA [Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army] and
to provide the people with economic and social benefits, have changed
little since the first comprehensive GVN [government of Vietnam] plan
was published in 1964.” This was equally true with regard to operational and tactical methods, which did not differ substantially from
those developed during Westmoreland’s tenure. Although the military
situation after Tet permitted the Army to undertake more pacification
operations than had been the case prior to 1968, the counterforce mission remained a central feature of Army operational life after Tet, as
the enemy’s main forces remained poised to strike whenever the opportunity arose.11 Indeed, in 1970 MACV’s office of Civil Operations and
Revolutionary Development Support admitted that U.S. combat units
continued to “have the primary mission of locating and neutralizing
enemy main force units, base areas, and liaison, communications, and
logistical systems in clearing zones and border surveillance zones,” a
mission that, in its opinion, was “perfectly consistent with the principles of area security.”12 As Lt. Gen. Julian J. Ewell, one of the more
successful commanders during the Abrams years, explained, “I had
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
two rules. One is that you would try to get a very close meshing of
pacification . . . and military operations. The other rule is the military
operations would be given first priority in every case. That doesn’t
mean you didn’t do pacification, but this gets at what you might call
winning the hearts and minds of the people. I’m all for that. It’s a nice
concept, but in fighting the Viet Cong and the NVA, if you don’t break
their military machine you might as well forget winning the hearts and
minds of the people.”13
Thus, under Abrams as under Westmoreland, defeating the enemy
remained “the single best way of achieving security.” The means
employed differed somewhat, only because the situation differed. The
gradual evolution of American operations from major offensives to
a more balanced, area control and pacification approach represented
little more than the natural progression envisioned by Westmoreland
and Army doctrine. That this transformation remained incomplete had
more to do with the ultimate failure of the Army to win the main force
war and isolate the battlefield than a dogmatic adherence to large-unit
Operational Concepts
Army doctrine recognized that insurgencies were multifaceted phenomena requiring a multifaceted response. When applying this precept
to Vietnam, General Westmoreland crafted three broad categories of
military operations, each designed to meet a particular aspect of the
overall mission.
The first category, “search-and-destroy” operations, included
offensive thrusts undertaken to attack the enemy’s major combat formations and base areas. Search-and-destroy operations were a mainstay of
the main force war and ranged in duration from a day to several weeks.
They were not designed to hold ground or establish any type of permanent presence, though they could be used in conjunction with pacification operations, either to protect an already pacified sector or to prepare
an area for future pacification by driving off the enemy’s main combat
units. The amount of force employed in a search-and-destroy operation varied from corps to companies, depending on the strength of the
enemy and the size and nature of the operational area. Tactically, they
usually involved the execution of some manner of sweep or encirclement.15
Westmoreland labeled the second type of operation “clearing,” or
“clear and hold.” The Army used clearing operations to break up the
enemy’s guerrilla forces in an area slated for pacification. Following
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
doctrine, an Army brigade would move to the targeted area, establish
base camps, and create a liaison with indigenous civil, military, and
intelligence agencies. The brigade commander would then divide the
area among his subordinate battalions. Depending upon the terrain
and the strength of the enemy, MACV estimated that a battalion could
clear an area up to 373 square kilometers in size. Once established, the
battalions would subdivide their assigned territory among their component companies, being careful to keep a reserve for rapid reaction
operations. The companies would saturate their areas of responsibility
with frequent day and night patrols, raids, and ambushes ranging in
size from squads to companies. Army units during clearing operations
continuously operated on the offensive, eschewing static garrison duty.
When a patrol detected guerrillas, reinforcements would be rushed
to the scene to destroy them in a fashion not unlike the net-and-spear
tactics U.S. advisers had introduced to the South Vietnamese in the
early 1960s. The troops would also assist in an array of population- and
resources-control measures designed to strengthen the government’s
presence in the area. As the enemy’s hold over the territory weakened,
allied units would break down into progressively smaller units, laying
the way for the third, and final, “securing” operation.16
Securing operations differed little from the later phases of clearing
operations. Rather, they represented the final stage in the solidification
of government control over an area. Continuous patrols would reduce
the guerrillas to a level manageable by paramilitary and police forces,
who assumed increasing responsibility for local defense. As the paramilitaries and police uprooted the last vestiges of the Communist apparatus, increased civil, economic, and psychological measures would
cement the government’s hold over the region’s people and resources,
thereby allowing the military to initiate the process in another area.17
MACV’s three operational categories corresponded with the general phases of progressive area clearance outlined in Army doctrine.
Since politico-military conditions varied widely across Vietnam, the
allies ran all three operations concurrently, applying the appropriate
remedy to meet local circumstances. In keeping with the division of
labor Westmoreland had formulated in 1965, U.S. combat forces generally concentrated their efforts on conducting search-and-destroy and
clearing missions, while the South Vietnamese performed most of the
securing operations.18
Westmoreland’s decision to focus U.S. energy initially on searchand-destroy rather than clearing and securing operations drew criticism
not only from individuals who believed politically oriented pacification
programs should receive top priority, but also from those who shared
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Westmoreland’s “security first” philosophy, but who differed with him
over how best to achieve it. The debate reflected ambiguities within
Army doctrine, which had never specifically embraced any particular
level of military activity. Rather, doctrine had endorsed a wide range
of operations—large and small, conventional and unconventional—that
could be executed in different combinations to meet the situation at
hand. Such an approach, while offering maximum flexibility, inevitably
gave rise to differing interpretations as to what the best type of operation might be.19
One school maintained that Army doctrine was too biased toward
large-unit operations, holding as an example the central place counterguerrilla doctrine gave encirclements—operations that were not only
difficult to execute, but which often required large numbers of men to
conduct successfully. Advocates of small-unit warfare argued that the
best way to destroy guerrillas was by saturating an area with innumerable small patrols that would relentlessly hound the enemy until he was
destroyed. They likewise believed that small-unit operations offered
the best method of protecting the people and separating them from
the guerrillas. There was, however, a second school of thought—one
composed of officers who chose to dwell on a different facet of revolutionary theory: the guerrilla base. While not denying the importance of
small-unit actions, the alternate opinion maintained that under Maoist
doctrine guerrillas must have a secure base if they were to succeed in
transforming their petty harassing tactics into a movement capable of
overthrowing a government. This point led people of the second school
of thought to conclude that “we must not be diverted by fighting every
small, scattered band that may be encountered. These actions are
only incidental to the primary objective of locating, surrounding, and
destroying the guerrilla’s base of operations.”20
Westmoreland embraced both points of view. Like many senior
generals, he readily acknowledged that saturation patrols were the
single best method for locating the enemy and rooting out Communist
cadres. Indeed, from the start of the war MACV repeatedly urged
commanders to undertake such operations whenever and wherever
possible. Yet Westmoreland also appreciated the importance of the
enemy’s base areas. All armies—including Ho Chi Minh’s People’s
Army of Vietnam (PAVN)—march on their stomachs, and, without their
prestocked caches of food and arms, Communist main forces would be
unable to mount major offensives. Moreover, by 1965–1966 the enemy
had already developed the ability to operate in regimental and division
strength. Until he had succeeded in neutralizing the main force threat,
Westmoreland felt he had no choice but to keep a significant portion
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
of his command concentrated for offensive strikes and counterstrikes
against major Communist units and the bases that sustained them.21
Most senior officers agreed with Westmoreland as to the importance of destroying the enemy’s major forces. As Chief of Staff Johnson
explained, “The enemy’s larger military formations must be driven
away from the population. . . . If we were to adopt a strategy which
emphasizes only clear and hold operations, enemy base areas would
become reasonably secure again. Any change in emphasis away from
search-and-destroy operations would free the enemy to operate with
relative impunity around and between the peripheries of our enclaves.”22
Lt. Gen. Richard G. Stilwell agreed, stating that “Large-unit operations
are thus the precondition for and shield behind which proceed all other
actions to bring security to the people. With the [enemy’s] big battalions
isolated, the remaining and smaller elements of the total communist
structure can be subjected to widespread attack by something approaching saturation tactics.” Large-unit operations were therefore “the number one mission of the U.S. units” according to Maj. Gen. Frederick
C. Weyand.23 Even those who criticized some aspects of the Army’s
operations in Vietnam generally agreed that Westmoreland’s prioritization made sense. This was the conclusion of a major study that General
Johnson commissioned to critique the Army’s policies in Vietnam titled
“A Program for the Pacification and Long-Term Development of South
Vietnam” (or “PROVN” for short). Although the 1966 report expressed
concern that the United States was not doing enough to win the allegiance of the Vietnamese people, it repeatedly stressed that the “bulk”
of allied regular forces should be directed against the enemy’s main
forces while the “remainder” guarded the people, since “the primary
role” of U.S. armed forces in Vietnam was “‘to isolate the battlefield’
by curtailing significant infiltration, demolishing the key war zones,
and fully engaging PAVN–main force VC units wherever and whenever
they are located. Unrelenting pressure must be imposed upon these
major enemy combat forces.”24
None of this meant that clearing operations and the small-unit
saturation tactics associated with them did not have an important place
in MACV’s thinking. At no time did Westmoreland or any of his senior
lieutenants ever advocate the exclusive use of either large-unit or
small-unit operations. Both had their place. In fact, from the beginning
of Westmoreland’s tenure, small-unit operations vastly outnumbered
large-unit operations. Moreover, the tendency of some analysts to
equate small-unit operations with pacification and large-unit operations with the big-unit war was misleading. When one considers that
a battalion was generally needed to surround a single village and that
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
two battalions were required to effect the average encirclement, the
necessity of using large units during pacification operations becomes
Operational Practices
The keys to bringing peace and security to Vietnam, wrote General
Johnson in 1965, were finding the enemy, fixing him in place, and
fighting and finishing him. General Johnson’s prescription was hardly
new, as it mirrored a formulation identified by Lt. Gen. Nelson A.
Miles during the Indian wars of the nineteenth century and applied by
generations of U.S. soldiers in virtually every war thereafter.26
Whether combating Native American irregulars on the Great Plains
or Asian guerrillas in the jungles of Vietnam, the first requirement—to
find the enemy—posed the most difficult challenge to Army soldiers.
Following classic guerrilla doctrine, the Communists generally fought
only when it served their purposes. They made their homes in terrain
that was difficult to penetrate, and they did not hesitate to burrow
elaborate underground complexes to further elude detection. The cover
provided by earth and leaf, when coupled with the guerrillas’ caginess
and the shelter they received from the population, made them a most
difficult quarry.
The enemy’s ability to fight, run, or hide at his discretion meant
that the insurgent, and not the Americans, most often determined the
tempo of the war. This fact both surprised and frustrated senior commanders who sought to wrest the initiative from the enemy.27
The key to finding the enemy was intelligence, and MACV employed
every possible means to obtain it. In its endless pursuit of information,
MACV supplemented traditional methods with new devices hurried
into production—sensors to detect heat, sound, pressure, and movement; side-looking airborne radar; and night vision equipment. As doctrine had predicted, U.S. soldiers learned that they needed to consider
more political, social, and economic factors in planning and executing
operations than was normally the case in conventional warfare. MACV
also decided that it needed to increase the size of its intelligence staffs
down to the brigade level in response to the complexities of a frontless
war. Interpreters were in especially short supply, and the Army quickly
found that indigenous personnel were invaluable adjuncts to the conduct of any pacification operation. When government personnel were
not available, some units resorted to expedients, like the 1st Battalion,
50th Infantry, which “adopted” Vietnamese boys of nine to fourteen
years of age to use as interpreters and intelligence agents.28
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
The existence of two coequal
but independent armies caused
many problems for allied intelligence. While local Vietnamese
authorities frequently had good
information, that information had
to be sent up the South Vietnamese
chain of command, then passed
over to MACV, before wending its
way back down to an American
unit for action—a process that
took so long that the information
lost much of its utility. To overcome this obstacle, Army units
formed combined intelligence
centers with their Vietnamese proA Viet Cong prisoner, wearing a
vincial and military counterparts.
mask to hide his identity, helps
The 25th Infantry Division was
U.S. troops locate his former
one of the first U.S. units to estabcolleagues.
lish such centers in 1966, and as
time passed the collocation of South Vietnamese and U.S. intelligence
and headquarters elements became common practice.29
Through the various means available to it, American intelligence
was often able to narrow the location of an enemy unit to an area of
fifty square kilometers or less. At that point ground operations generally assumed the job of actually finding the enemy. One way of doing so
was through the use of large-unit sweeps. As the name implied, searchand-destroy operations were often launched without firm knowledge of
the enemy’s whereabouts. The maneuver entailed having one or more
battalions line up and sweep through an area looking for the enemy.
Sometimes these operations were undertaken with the assistance of
blocking or encircling units, and sometimes not. In December 1965
Westmoreland expressed doubts about the ability of large-unit sweeps
to locate an enemy who did not want to be found, lamenting that “we
have learned through long and unhappy experience that preplanned
schemes of maneuver, with successive objectives, by a force moving in
one direction, will nearly always fail to make significant contact unless
that contact is at the choosing of the VC at a time and place chosen by
him when he thinks he has all the advantage.”30
Westmoreland’s concerns were unsurprising, as U.S. advisers had
long criticized the South Vietnamese for making the very same mistakes. The Army persisted in using sweeps to find the enemy, in part
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
Vietnam’s terrain posed significant challenges to
counterguerrilla operations.
because there were situations in which the enemy seemed too strong
to employ smaller patrols. Moreover, MACV hoped that, with greater
ingenuity and skill, U.S. troops could eventually improve the effectiveness of such expeditions. The command counseled subordinates
to encircle the suspect area completely before launching a sweep and
to be more diligent in executing the search, taking as much as three
weeks to scour the targeted area. It likewise adopted the policy of having troops return to suspect areas in the hope that multiple operations
would gradually wear down the enemy’s infrastructure. These and other
modifications did indeed improve the performance of allied operations.
Still, manpower shortages frequently interfered with such undertakings, while the enemy continued to display an uncanny ability to evade
even the most meticulous sweep. More often than not, sweeps uncovered Communist supplies and killed enemy troops but rarely generated
decisive battles.31
Many officers expressed dissatisfaction with large sweep operations. “I hope that we have conducted our last ‘search and destroy’
operation,” wrote Brig. Gen. Ellis W. Williamson, the commander of
the 173d Airborne Brigade in September 1965. “I am thoroughly convinced that running into the jungle with a lot of people without a fixed
target is a lot of effort, a lot of physical energy expended. A major
portion of our effort evaporates into the air.” Frustrated at the enemy’s
ability to sidestep major expeditions, a growing number of officers
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
began to look for alternative ways to find the enemy. Two such officers
were Brig. Gen. Willard Pearson, commander of the 101st Airborne
Division’s 1st Brigade in 1966, and Col. David H. Hackworth, his onetime subordinate.32
Rather than sending out entire brigades in a vain attempt to locate
the enemy, Pearson suggested that the Army adopt subtler methods,
an approach he called semi-guerrilla tactics. Among the techniques he
advocated were the extensive use of small reconnaissance and ambush
patrols, night operations, deception activities, and informer networks.
His views received wide distribution through the efforts of the outspoken Colonel Hackworth, a successful practitioner of Pearson’s method
and prolific publicist.33
Hackworth’s declaration that “to defeat the guerrilla we must
become guerrillas. Every insurgent tactic must be employed against
the insurgent,” became a rallying cry for those who believed that the
Army had failed to adapt to modern revolutionary war. Nevertheless,
neither officer advocated a radical departure from Army doctrine.
They accepted both the Army’s basic tactics and the important place
that technology played in them. They also believed that large-unit
sweeps and search-and-destroy operations had a legitimate function
to play in counterguerrilla warfare. The emphasis in Pearson’s phrase
semi-guerrilla tactics was squarely on the prefix semi, for as one
1st Brigade publication explained, “once contact is made remove the
cloak of being a guerrilla and operate conventionally using all available firepower, mobility, and reserves.” Even Hackworth’s guerrilla
tactics were based on the full exploitation of what he called America’s
“two aces in the hole—firepower and helicopter mobility”—neither
of which were available to true guerrillas. Thus, rather than embracing guerrilla warfare, Pearson and Hackworth were merely trying to
augment the Army’s existing capabilities with some guerrilla-style
techniques. This approach was fully within the bounds of doctrinal
thought. Indeed, in seeking to find an appropriate balance between
conventional and unconventional techniques, Pearson and Hackworth
were acting in the finest tradition of American counterguerrilla warfare, a tradition that reached back to Dennis Hart Mahan’s teachings
at the U.S. Military Academy during the 1830s, if not to the colonial
frontier. MACV recognized this and encouraged subordinate commanders to employ schemes akin to Pearson’s semi-guerrilla methods
that, while never replacing the sweep, became increasingly common
as the war progressed.34
Regardless of whether a unit was performing a search-and-destroy,
clearing, or semi-guerrilla mission, patrolling was essential to finding
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
the enemy. During the war, unit commanders developed a variety of
patrol procedures, each tailored to a particular need or environment.
Among these were such exotically named methods as the cloverleaf,
the checkerboard, bushmaster patrols, eagle flights, thunder runs, and
the jitterbug.35
Although all infantry units conducted patrols on a daily basis, the
need for skilled reconnaissance personnel was so great that commanders
turned to a number of expedients. In 1965 Westmoreland encouraged
his brigade and division commanders to raise specially trained reconnaissance elements patterned on the Army’s long-range reconnaissance
patrol units. The Army had first created these units in the 1950s as
special teams for conducting reconnaissance, intelligence, rescue, and
target acquisition missions behind enemy lines. Though originally envisioned for use during a conventional or nuclear war, the missions they
were designed to fulfill were at a premium in Vietnam. However, since
the Department of the Army had not authorized the manpower needed
to form such organizations, commanders had to create them on an ad
hoc basis by reallocating personnel organic to their units.36
The first Army brigade to deploy to Vietnam, the 173d Airborne
Brigade, was also the first to create a long-range reconnaissance patrol
from organic assets in October 1965. In 1966 Westmoreland established a reconnaissance and commando school in Vietnam to provide
training for all such special detachments, and by the fall of 1967 every
division and most separate brigades had provisional LRRPs. MACV
issued a doctrinal pamphlet governing the use of these special assets in
late 1967, but the units remained provisional until the Army belatedly
authorized them in 1969 under the designation of Rangers. Ultimately,
thirteen Ranger companies served in Vietnam.37
Most LRRP and Ranger outfits consisted solely of Americans, but
the Army also created mixed formations of American and indigenous
troops. These units blended the combat power of U.S. soldiers with the
invaluable local knowledge of Vietnamese personnel. One such formation was the Combined Reconnaissance Intelligence Platoon developed
by the 25th Infantry Division in 1966. Divided equally between U.S.
and South Vietnamese soldiers, the unit was especially useful in ferreting out the enemy’s clandestine infrastructure, and eventually several
other divisions formed similar organizations.
Another potential source of intelligence was the thousands of
enemy personnel who defected to the allies every year. A number of
U.S. units recruited defectors and formed them into combined U.S.Vietnamese detachments designated Kit Carson Scouts. In the 9th
Infantry Division, the program was so successful that the division
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
A member of a long-range reconnaissance patrol
eventually assigned defectors, called Tiger Scouts, to every rifle squad
in the division.
The vast majority of Vietnamese who served as scouts and auxiliaries for American forces did so in units either controlled or advised
by U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. Included among these were the
Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, the Mobile Guerrilla Forces, and
the Delta, Sigma, Omega, Gamma, and Apache Forces. Some of these
units were technically part of the South Vietnamese armed forces, while
others were essentially mercenaries recruited from South Vietnam’s
ethnic and religious minorities. Each had a unique structure and different, though somewhat overlapping, missions, including border patrol,
population security in remote areas, deep reconnaissance, target acquisition, rapid reaction, and special strike missions.
Overall, the United States had mixed success with special reconnaissance units. At times these organizations were truly a thorn in
the side of the enemy. At others they were less than successful due to
resource shortages, personnel problems, and inadequate training.38
Once U.S. forces had located the enemy, the next task, fixing him
in place, was likewise complicated by the terrain and the enemy’s
evasive ways. Historically, encirclement had been an effective means
of bringing opponents bent on evasion to battle, and this was no less
true in Vietnam. In concept, language, and execution, U.S. battle plans
in Vietnam closely mirrored the Wehrmacht-based encirclement techniques that had graced the pages of Army manuals since 1950. The
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
only major difference between U.S. encirclement operations and their
Wehrmacht predecessors was America’s use of the helicopter, which
gave the Americans an enveloping capability undreamed of by past
Still, doctrinal admonitions about the inherent difficulties of
encirclement operations remained as true in 1970 as they had been
twenty years earlier. Troop shortages and rugged, heavily forested terrain often meant that encirclements were rather porous, a fact that the
enemy fully exploited. Even the helicopter, despite its many invaluable
services, proved to be less of a panacea than some had anticipated.
Helicopters were initially in short supply and were expensive to operate and maintain, while Vietnam’s seasonal monsoons further impeded
operations. The noise of approaching helicopters frequently tipped
the enemy off to American intentions, as did the scarcity of suitable
landing zones in certain areas. Helicopters were also vulnerable to
ground fire, a fact that led most commanders to precede their airmobile descents with a bombardment that again disclosed allied intentions
to the enemy. Moreover, the helicopter’s vulnerability to ground fire
also made redeploying troops during a firefight hard. Consequently,
airmobile infantrymen, once deployed, were no more mobile than their
foes. Nevertheless, trapping the enemy with some form of ground or
heliborne encirclement remained the single best method available to the
Army to compel a reluctant enemy to accept battle.40
Having found the enemy through a combination of intelligence
and reconnaissance and fixed him in place through some manner of
envelopment, the job remained to destroy him. Historically, fighting an
irregular enemy had been the least difficult of the counterinsurgents’
three tasks. In Vietnam, however, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
regulars were particularly formidable adversaries. By the time U.S.
infantry arrived in Vietnam in 1965, most Communist units were well
trained, motivated, and led by seasoned veterans. Though it could not
match the allies in terms of air power, artillery, and ammunition supply, the average Communist main force infantry battalion with its
typical attachments had approximately as much firepower as a U.S.
infantry battalion. Just as troublesome was the enemy’s penchant for
fortifications. During 1966, for example, Communist forces employed
fortifications in 63 percent of all their combat actions with U.S. forces.
Many enemy bunkers were impervious to anything other than a direct
hit by bomb, rocket, or artillery. Studies indicated that a 750-pound
bomb had less than a 50 percent chance of inflicting a casualty on an
entrenched enemy unit, while the probability that a single 105-mm.
artillery round would cause a casualty under the same circumstances
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
Airmobile infantry played a central role in U.S.
counterguerrilla operations.
was estimated at less than 1 percent. Triple canopy forests and dense
vegetation provided additional cover from bomb blasts and prying eyes
alike. So well concealed was the enemy that most contacts occurred at
less than forty-six meters, a range that made both maneuver and the
employment of fire support exceedingly difficult, especially given the
enemy’s habit of “hugging” U.S. units so as to avoid the worst effects
of an allied bombardment.41
The enemy’s many strengths caused the Army to adjust its standard
combat methods. Perhaps no one better represented this transformation
than Maj. Gen. William E. DePuy, one of the Army’s leading tacticians during the war. As MACV’s chief of operations in 1965, DePuy
had developed MACV’s operational “bible,” a directive titled “Tactics
and Techniques for Employment of U.S. Forces in the Republic of
Vietnam.” Shortly after promulgating this work, DePuy left MACV to
become commander of the 1st Infantry Division, a position from which
he would be able to put his thoughts into practice.
Upon assuming command, DePuy immediately issued detailed
guidance to the division. He reasserted MACV’s position that saturation
patrolling offered the best means of locating the enemy. He also strongly advocated the use of defensive works, and the 1st Infantry Division
soon became legendary for the interlocking bunkers that sprang up at
each evening’s campsite. Most importantly, DePuy reminded his subordinates that in modern warfare firepower killed, and he urged them to
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
use as much firepower as they could obtain to destroy the enemy. Yet he
also adhered to traditional fire and maneuver tactics, stating that closing with the enemy was the true climax of battle. Consequently, upon
making contact with the enemy, DePuy instructed his men to establish
a base of fire to pin the enemy while maneuvering a portion of the
command to outflank or encircle him. Once fire superiority had been
achieved, the infantry was to advance—by crawling if necessary—until
it had closed with the enemy. Reflecting the doctrinal principle that
guerrillas, once contacted, should never be allowed to escape, the general ordered that “under NO circumstances, repeat, NO circumstances
will forward elements in contact withdraw in order to bring artillery
fire on the VC.” Similarly, he insisted that his infantry maintain contact
throughout the night, rather than withdrawing to nighttime laagers.42
Experience soon forced some pragmatic modifications to traditional fire and maneuver doctrine. The enemy’s bunkers were too strong, his
firepower too deadly, and jungle engagement ranges too short to permit
maneuver in the face of the enemy. Time after time, the Viet Cong and
the North Vietnamese bloodily repulsed American ground assaults led
by young, gung-ho officers. Consequently, by mid-1966 DePuy had
modified his initial statements to the extent of permitting officers who
found themselves confronted by Communist fortifications to pull their
units back and allow artillery to pummel the enemy’s position. Still,
he insisted that “nothing that is said above is to be construed as eliminating the necessity, eventually, to close with the position, destroy the
remaining defenders and achieve the objective, by infantry elements.
This should be done after sufficient ordnance has been expended to
soften the position and, ideally, to kill all or most of the defenders.”
Infantry assault, while thus still an integral part of combat tactics, had
begun to take a backseat to the application of heavy firepower.43
DePuy’s experience was replicated throughout the Army in Vietnam
in 1965 and 1966 and became the basis for U.S. tactics for the rest of
the war. “The trick of jungle fighting,” DePuy summarized, “is to find
the enemy with the fewest possible men and to destroy him with the
maximum amount of firepower.” According to the new “pile on” tactics, the infantry would locate the enemy with small patrols, fix and
encircle him with airmobile reinforcements, and then bury him under
an avalanche of air- and artillery-delivered ordnance.44
The change in American tactics—from one that balanced fire and
maneuver to one in which fire held overwhelming precedence—was
logical given the realities of Vietnam. In a war in which capturing
ground was less important than destroying the enemy, using bullets
rather than bodies made sense. Such tactics also coincided with the
The U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965–1973
political constraints that came with fighting an increasingly unpopular war and made the most of America’s technological and logistical
strengths. On the other hand, pile-on tactics were not easy to use, as
they required commanders to choreograph the activities of fixed-wing
aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery, and naval gunfire with the
movement of troops on the ground and transport helicopters in the air.
Such operations required detailed planning, precise timing, rapid communications, and flawless coordination if they were to be executed in
a manner that both prevented the enemy’s escape and minimized U.S.
Not every commander could effect such coordination successfully. Moreover, old ways died hard, and veteran officers had to stress
repeatedly to their less-experienced colleagues the importance of using
firepower rather than infantry to take most enemy positions. In fact,
the officer corps remained at odds throughout the war as to what the
exact mix of fire and maneuver should be. A 1969 survey of over two
hundred officers revealed that 56 percent felt that decisively closing
with the enemy still represented a better tactic than simply sitting back
and allowing artillery to do the infantry’s work for it. Westmoreland
himself complained that an overreliance on fire support was sapping
soldiers’ offensive spirit and creating a “firebase psychosis” in which
the smallest tactical task could not be performed without intensive
artillery preparation. The plethora of firepower available to the average
platoon and company commander led to frequent abuses of that power,
with one study finding fifteen instances of ground commanders firing
up to a hundred rounds of artillery fire to dislodge a single Communist
As the war progressed the Army began to exhibit some of the
behaviors for which U.S. advisers had criticized the South Vietnamese
for years. Not only did the Army demonstrate an increasing reliance on
artillery, but in practice many officers ignored DePuy’s initial admonitions and broke contact with the enemy to “maneuver to the rear,” either
to call in fire support or to establish nighttime laagers. While there
were practical reasons for breaking contact, disengaging robbed battles
of their decisiveness and weakened already porous encirclements,
notwithstanding the best efforts by artillery blocking fires to prevent
the enemy from escaping during the night. The Communists appreciated this fact and frequently timed their attacks so that night would fall
before the Americans could effectively react and seal the battlefield.46
In addition to the allegedly corrosive effects abundant firepower
had on tactical efficiency and initiative, it also had serious ramifications for the political side of the war. While air and artillery strikes
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1942–1976
minimized American casualties, they killed and maimed civilians,
destroyed homes and businesses, and potentially alienated the very
people the United States was fighting to protect. Particularly galling to
the population was harassment and interdiction (H&I) fire. H&I fire
was used to disrupt suspected enemy concentrations and lines of communications. It was often preplanned and executed at night, with little
or no direct observation of the target. Born out of frustration with the
Army’s inability to come to grips with the enemy and made possible
by America’s incredible wealth, H&I fire eventually came to represent about half of all fire missions in Vietnam. Some of this fire was
undoubtedly effective and necessary, and every soldier manning some
remote outpost slept a little easier knowing that U.S. artillery enveloped
him in a protective blanket of steel and shrapnel. But it was also an
extremely wasteful practice.
As the war progressed an increasing number of soldiers expressed
unease at th